News From Congressman Ben Cline
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Sixth District Perspectives
with Congressman Ben Cline

     As I crisscrossed the Sixth District this week listening and talking with constituents, I was consistently reminded of the hard work and resilience of those I am honored to represent in Congress. Once again, I visited the City of Staunton to see the rebuilding following the devastating flooding in the Queen City two weeks ago. In an effort to obtain federal FEMA assistance for affected residents, I wrote to the Governor requesting an expedited Emergency Declaration from the Commonwealth to get the folks in the area back on their feet in a timely manner. Also, I introduced a third bipartisan government reform initiative with my colleague Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN-03), and the Speaker called us back to Washington to vote on a politically motivated bill affecting the Postal Service.

48-Hour Bill Review Resolution:

     One of the most basic principles of representative government is transparency. That’s why this week, Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN-03) and I introduced H. Res. 1086 - the 48-Hour Bill Review Resolution. H. Res. 1086 would require that in addition to the 72-hour notice for bill introduction, the actual text to be voted on must be published at least 48-hours before the vote. Adding this rule strengthens the current 72-hour rule by providing an additional layer of protection for the legislative text being considered, thus closing a loophole used far too frequently in Congress. Further, the 48-Hour Bill Review Resolution would require the House to pass an altogether separate resolution in order to waive the waiting period required under H. Res. 1086. This resolution would promote greater transparency and accountability in the legislative process. This is the third government reform bill Congressman Phillips and I introduced this month. In the past few weeks we have also introduced H.R. 7949, the SMART Government Act and H.R. 8022, the Lobbying Disclosure Reform Act.

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Politicization of the USPS:

     The United States Postal Service provides a vital national service, especially for those in rural areas. With many self-quarantining due to COVID-19, the reliance on the post office for delivery of things like medicine and daily household goods has become even more important. Both parties and past Presidential Administrations realize this and have made bipartisan efforts to reform and strengthen the current postal system.

     Unfortunately, this bipartisan tradition has been put in danger by Speaker Pelosi in an effort to score political points. Congress was called into session this week to vote on legislation that would prohibit any further reforms to the USPS, require a rollback of any reforms made after January 1, 2020, and allocate an additional $25 billion to fund the USPS, even though Congress provided an extra $10 billion line of credit as part of the CARES Act enacted earlier this year, and even though the Postmaster General recently announced that he would delay the implementation of any further reforms until after November.

     For decades there has been an understanding that the USPS required reforms to meet changing landscapes and competition. Whether President Clinton, Bush, Obama, or Trump, the consistent message has been that in order to ensure financial viability, the USPS needed to continue to reform its operations. Speaker Pelosi could have had the support of most Republicans, including myself, if she had left politics out of the bill and focused on improving USPS operations. Unfortunately, House Democrats placed politics above policy and ended up with a bill that has little chance of actually being signed into law. 

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Fighting for Staunton:

     On August 8, heavy rain and flooding wreaked havoc in downtown Staunton and caused more than $3.1 million in damages to property. Soon after, the City of Staunton provided the necessary data to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and requested an Emergency Declaration but two weeks after the flooding, the State has yet to act. This designation is necessary because state designation helps a locality qualify for Federal Disaster Aid through FEMA. Knowing this is an already difficult time for businesses and area residents, I wrote to the Governor urging swift approval of Staunton’s request for an Emergency Declaration to ensure that the Queen City can quickly begin to rebuild what was lost.

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Emergency Relief Check Filing Deadline Extended:

     The IRS has extended its deadline to September 30, 2020, for people to provide information to the agency using its Non-Filer Tool. Click here if you have not yet received your Economic Impact Payment and meet any of the criteria below. 

  • Receive Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments
  • Did not file a 2019 or 2018 tax return
  • Have a qualifying child under age 17
  • Did not already enter information in the IRS’ Non-Filer Tool for yourself and at least one child
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Schools Reopening:

    With school aged children of my own, I am aware of the uncertainty that surrounds sending kids back to school. To help clarify school plans, over the last few weeks, I have tried to provide you with the most up-to-date reopening information on school districts across the Sixth District. The below schools are slated to begin instruction next week. 

Bath County Schools: Schools will open on August 26th

  • 4 day/week (Monday-Thursday) and 1-day remote learning (Friday), however parents may select 100% virtual learning for their children when registering.
  • Information on the virtual learning option is included in the plan. If you have additional questions, contact your child’s school principal.

          Back-to-school update

Botetourt County Schools: School is set to start August 24th

  • The Botetourt County school board approved a plan for fall in which students in grades 3-12 will have two days of in-person class and then three remote days of learning. The younger students will be in school five days a week.
  • Students in grades 3-12 will be assigned to either Group A or Group B and will go to school on Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday and will learn remotely the other three days of the week. Then, starting on Wednesday, Oct. 21, students will learn in person on Wednesdays too. Wednesdays will alternate between Group A and B days.
  • Students can alternatively choose to take all their classes remotely. They will not be considered homeschooled, so they will still be eligible to participate in athletics.

          Back-to-school update.

Lynchburg Schools: Lynchburg City Schools will start 100% virtual on August 24th

  • Students will begin the year with virtual learning, then transition to in-person learning. As originally presented, this option calls for the transition to in-person learning to happen after the first nine weeks of school, however the specifics of how often classes would meet will be determined by whatever data is available at that time.
  • No decision has been made regarding the future of athletics.

          Back-to-school update.

Page County Schools: School will reopen on August 24th

  • High school students (grades 9-12) will be learning remotely this fall.
  • Pre-K through second grade will attend in-person four days a week.
  • Grades 3 through 8 will attend in-person twice a week.
  • Wednesdays will be used as a remote learning day for all students, giving time to deep clean schools and for teachers to plan.

          Back-to-school update

Roanoke County Schools: First day of school pushed back to August 24th

  • Parents can still choose to have their students receive 100% online instruction if desired.
  • There will be reduced class sizes for the students in K-2 who attend school in person five days a week. School leaders said some areas of the school, such as libraries and cafeterias, have been converted into classroom spaces.
  • Students in grades 3-12 will be split into two groups and will attend school in person two days a week spread out in classroom spaces.

          Back-to-school update.

Staunton Schools: First day pushed back from August 18th to August 25th

  • Virtual-only learning for the first semester of the school year.
  • The hybrid model will no longer be used and the plan for virtual learning can be found at the link below when a plan is published.

          Back-to-school update.

     For a full list of public schools’ reopening plans, please click here.

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COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker:

     While vaccines typically take years to produce, the world’s leading scientists and researchers are hard at work to develop an effective vaccine at record speeds. There are currently more than 165 variations of a vaccine being developed - 32 of which are already in human trials. Of those 32, 8 are in Phase 3 meaning they are currently undergoing large-scale efficacy testing, and 2 have even been approved for early and limited use. The medical community is hopeful that we can have a large-scale vaccine approved by early next year. To learn more, click here.  

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Source: New York Times,  Jonathan Corum, Denise Grady, Sui-Lee Wee and Carl Zimmer

     Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431. 

     For the latest updates from Washington and across the Sixth District, please follow my Facebook and Twitter pages.

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