Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday signed House Bill 5005, Virginia’s revised biennial budget.
The governor called the General Assembly into special session on Agu. 18 and has worked with legislative leaders to enact a spending plan that protects key priorities, preserves the Commonwealth’s financial options, and addresses critical challenges that Virginians are facing amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The signed budget finalizes previously announced funding allocations that Virginia received under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, including:
- Vaccination program: $22 million for the Virginia Department of Health’s vaccination preparation and planning through the end of 2020
- K-12 schools: $220 million for COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts in K-12 public schools, with all 132 school districts receiving at least $100,000
- Higher education: $116 million to support ongoing COVID-19 response at public colleges, universities and medical schools and $22 million for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to provide payments to private institutions of higher education
- Child care: $65.8 million to increase access to child care and continue child care incentive grant program established in April
- Small Business Assistance: $70 million to establish the Rebuild VA economic recovery fund providing grants to small businesses and nonprofit organizations impacted by the pandemic and $30 million in additional funds to continue the program
- Broadband accessibility: $30 million to fast-track broadband projects in underserved localities
Utility shutoff protections
The budget signed includes $100 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to support jurisdictional and municipal utility customers facing financial hardship due to the public health crisis. It also directs the State Corporation Commission to establish an application process for distributing the funds to utilities so they can efficiently provide direct assistance to eligible customers.
The budget prohibits evictions for non-payment of rent through Dec. 31, which is stronger than current federal protections. Landlords and tenants must cooperate and apply for rental assistance through the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development.
After Jan. 1, the budget requires landlords and tenants to work together to access rent assistance, including through the RMRP, before proceeding with an eviction.