Virginia lawmakers to take up compromise for COVID-19 money

Richmond (WSLS)

Virginia lawmakers are set to take up a compromise plan for spending $4.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief after a conference committee reconciled budgets approved last week by the House of Delegates and the Senate.

The result preserves most of a plan crafted by Gov. Ralph Northam and fellow Democrats and approved by the House, as well as several Senate amendments, including a proposal to raise bonuses for sheriff’s deputies and corrections officers from $1,000 to $3,000.

Both chambers were expected to take up the budget deal on Monday. It was not immediately clear when they will vote on the measure. Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, has said the governor supports the budget compromise.

The compromise would spend most of Virginia’s share of the American Rescue Plan funding on initiatives aimed at helping small businesses, improving air quality in public schools, bolstering mental health and substance-abuse treatment, increasing broadband access and replenishing the state’s unemployment trust fund.

Senators wanted to raise a $1,000 bonus proposed in Northam’s bill for sheriff’s deputies and corrections officers to $5,000, the same amount state police will receive under the Democratic plan. The conference committee agreed on $3,000 bonuses for deputies and corrections officers, while keeping the $5,000 bonuses pledged to state police.

Another Senate amendment approved by the committee would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to resume walk-in service at its customer service centers throughout the state within 60 days. The DMV instituted an appointment-only system for in-person services due to the pandemic.

The conference committee also kept a provision that would establish regulations for allowing student athletes - including students at four-year colleges and universities and two-year community colleges - to receive compensation from outside parties for use of their name, image and likeness in sponsorships, paid partnerships and advertisements. The Senate had stripped that language.

The committee also agreed to keep an amendment that will extend a 12.5% Medicaid rate increase for providers of community services to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.