$114M announced for public safety and crime reduction in Virginia
RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia plans to direct more than $114 million in federal and state funding to support public safety initiatives across the Commonwealth, according to Governor Northam. The governor’s proposal includes $62 million in hazard pay and compensation for public safety officials, $35 million to address COVID-19 in correctional facilities, and $17 million for crime reduction and prevention programs and services for victims of crime.
“We are grateful for Virginia’s public safety officials who have worked overtime throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Northam. “This critical investment will give us more resources to recruit and retain law enforcement and correctional officers, bolster our efforts to reduce gun violence, and help ensure the safety of families and communities across the Commonwealth.”
The proposed investment includes state funding as well as federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), says Northam. The governor’s plan provides hazard pay for local and state law enforcement and correctional officers who served during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as funding for recruitment and retention. It includes $20 million for Virginia State Police, $10 million for the Department of Corrections and $11 million to address staffing shortages at local and regional jails and sheriff’s departments.
It also includes compensation for medical contractors, cafeteria and janitorial workers, and other support staff. The two-year budget that Governor Northam submits in December will include an additional $20 million to address pay scale compression for Virginia State Police.
“The last year-and-a-half has been tough on everyone and this investment in public safety will provide much-needed relief to local and state law enforcement agencies and help localities to continue supporting victims of domestic and gun violence,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “This funding is in recognition of the critical jobs they perform.”
“Recruitment and pay compression issues have led to an increasing number of vacancies at state police over the past several years—these issues were only magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Wayne Huggins, Executive Director of the Virginia State Police Association (VSPA). “VSPA is encouraged that this issue is being addressed in an ongoing and comprehensive manner. We appreciate the Governor’s support and commitment.”
This investment also includes $35 million to address COVID-19 within facilities operated by the Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Justice. The goal of the funding is to allow for rate increases for medical contractors and staff positions to support COVID-19 management. It is also to provide testing supplies, personal protective equipment, ventilation modifications in correctional facilities, quarantine spaces, and tents to enable outdoor visitation.
“Today’s announcement shows that we are dedicated to protecting Virginian’s families and keeping our communities safe,” said House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41). “I am proud of our strong investment in crime prevention measures and the commitment to supporting survivors of domestic violence.”
“This has been a difficult year and it is crucial we use the available ARPA funds to support Virginia’s COVID-19 recovery,” said Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-35). “Law enforcement compensation has been a long-standing issue and I am pleased we are able to address it now.”
A statement from Northam’s office reads, “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the demand for domestic violence and sexual assault programming and support services for crime victims in the Commonwealth. Since 2019, the number of individuals seeking shelter and contacts to the Virginia Statewide Hotline has risen significantly. The funding proposal includes $12.2 million in new resources for victims of crime and survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, elder abuse and child abuse. An additional $1 million will be dedicated to the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Victim Fund, which will provide funding for prosecution and victim support.”
The funding proposal designates $2.5 million for gun violence reduction initiatives within the Office of the Attorney General and more than $500,000 for the Department of Forensic Science to increase capacity to analyze firearms evidence.
“I am proud of this substantial investment in gun violence prevention in our Commonwealth,” said Senator Janet Howell (D-32), chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee. “I have been a strong advocate for violence prevention measures and know this funding will provide critical services to impacted community members.”
“This funding will help address current public safety needs, including first responder staffing shortages and support for victims of crime, and help us to prepare for the future,” said Delegate Luke Torian (D-52), chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “Throughout this difficult year, Virginia has shown that smart investments pay off for the public.”
“Handling the issue of salary compression and hazard pay for our local and state law enforcement officers and the Department of Corrections will help us to recruit, train and retain more qualified and diverse officers,” said Delegate Lamont Bagby (D-74), chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. “All Virginians will benefit from this comprehensive public safety funding which includes necessary financial support for law enforcement offices and assistance for victims of violence.”
Copyright 2021 WDBJ. All rights reserved.