Virginia lawmakers prepare to allocate $4.3B in special session
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia lawmakers hope for smooth sailing as the General Assembly special session gets set to begin Monday.
“We’re ready to do what’s in the best interest of Virginians,” said Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA).
The governor, and House and Senate leadership have already laid out many of their priorities for spending $4.3 billion in American Rescue Plan funding.
“We’ve done a lot of our homework before the big test on Monday,” said Northam.
The federal money is earmarked for COVID-19 recovery efforts.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree on many top issues including broadband, where the governor has proposed a $700 million investment.
“I would fully support that, and more,” said 19th district Del. Terry Austin (R). “Broadband is a necessity today. It’s a utility just like water and sewer. We have to have it to live and to operate.”
21st district Sen. John Edwards (D) agrees.
“Broadband is absolutely critical,” he said. “Like 40% of people in the rural areas are not getting broadband. And now that people are being educated through broadband, it’s even more important.”
Mental health is another top priority, with Gov. Northam hoping to distribute $485 million toward prevention and recovery.
“We want to make sure that we have resources available, and making a half billion dollar investment in that, I think, really shows what our priorities are,” said 12th district Del. Chris Hurst (D).
Education and law enforcement are also expected see investments of more than $100 million.
But the largest chunk of money will likely be used to replenish the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund.
“The Governor’s asked for an appropriation of about $936 million to offset any future cost increases that would be for businesses for that trust fund to go up as a recovery process,” said Austin. “Hopefully we’ll be able to allocate that money to keep that level where it is today.”
The special session is set to begin on Monday. The governor said he expects the session to last at least a week.
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