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

     I was blessed by another great week traveling throughout the Sixth District listening to area residents and participating in community events. It was a pleasure to join the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission as they accepted a grant from the federal government that will aid in the Valley’s coronavirus recovery efforts. I also appreciated the opportunity to discuss three bipartisan reform bills I introduced with both constituents and local media. And finally, Senate leaders have proposed an additional COVID-19 relief package that I am hopeful can jump-start talks on a bipartisan bill that can eventually gain the support of both parties.

Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission:

     I was pleased to join the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission this week in Weyers Cave as they accepted $400,000 in CARES Act funding. As businesses begin to reopen and folks head back to work, this Economic Development Administration Recovery Assistance grant will help the Shenandoah Valley re-ignite local industries and encourage economic development. Further this grant will assist in developing short- and long-term recovery and resiliency plans to expand teleworking opportunities, support small businesses, and strengthen the supply chain of agricultural goods.

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Reforming Government:

    The sacred trust that exists between elected officials and those they serve has resulted in the greatest representative government in history. However, over time, laws must be modernized to adapt to the changing landscape. That’s why Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN-03) and I teamed up – two Members from opposite parties, representing different states, and coming from dissimilar professional backgrounds – to introduce three purely nonpartisan reform bills this month that will help make certain that the federal government is actually working for the people. Our bills strive to bring greater transparency to the lobbying industry through the Lobbying Disclosure Reform Act, work to ensure the American people have time to read legislation before their representatives vote on it though the 48-Hour Bill Review Resolution, and promote better governance and oversight regarding federal technology practices to save taxpayers potentially billions of dollars through the SMART Government Act. You can read more about these bipartisan reform bills here, or listen to my recent interview with WFIR below. 

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COVID-19 Update:

    Earlier this month, the President signed an Executive Order that made available up to $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to Americans who have lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, Virginia agreed to administer the lost wages program, which means the Commonwealth will be awarded $378,748,485 in federal aid from FEMA. This is welcome news for Virginia residents because FEMA’s grant will allow the state to provide those unemployed due to coronavirus $300 per week on top of their regular unemployment benefit. 

     Legislatively there has been no movement on negotiations surrounding an additional large-scale coronavirus relief package. However, this week, Senate Republicans proposed an alternative bill aimed at providing rapid relief to those in need. The bill, the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act, contains provisions that both parties have expressed a willingness to support in the past like liability protections to businesses, schools, and hospitals. Further, it will extend the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) through December 27th, 2020 at a rate of $300 per week. Additionally, the bill will extend and enhance the Paycheck Protection Program, which in turn will continue supporting millions of American jobs and small businesses. The legislation also would allocate more than $29 billion to support our medical community in both developing therapies and vaccines and ensuring our frontline workers have the resources they need. And finally, the Senate bill would appropriate $105 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund to make certain that schools have the tools needed to reopen safely and keep students healthy. 

Paycheck Protection Program Update:

     The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has had an impact on America’s business community and has served as a lifeline throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As you may know, this program, which was established through the CARES Act, offers small businesses forgivable loans to help keep their doors open and employees on payroll during this crisis. To date, this program has allocated more than $530 billion to over 5.2 million small business across the country. Right here in the Sixth District alone, the program has provided $612 million to 7,789 businesses within our community, which is currently helping support nearly 70,000 jobs.

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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 this week. 

Augusta County Schools: First day of school pushed back to September 1st

  • Hybrid model of learning for in-person instruction and virtual learning will now have the same start date of September 1st.
  • Students will attend twice per week on a rotating A/B schedule.
  • Mondays will be a remote learning day for all students. Teachers will use this time to communicate with students and parents, collaborate, plan, and participate in professional learning.

          Back-to-school update.

Buena Vista Schools: School is set to start on August 31st

  • Pre-K through 7th grade in-person will attend school Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, school will be closed for deep cleaning, staff professional development and teacher office hours.
  • Individual school schedules and more division reopening information will be available on the Buena Vista City Public Schools website.

          Back-to-school update.

Harrisonburg Schools: First day set for August 31st

  • The first semester will be entirely virtual. There are exceptions for certain students with special needs.
  • School board is still considering three options for returning students to in-person learning for the 2nd semester.

          Back-to-school update.

Roanoke City Schools: First day set for August 31st

  • The modified plan will have most students participate in virtual learning for the first nine weeks beginning on August 31.
  • According to the new plan, more students will be able to return for in-person instruction for the second nine weeks as infection rates decrease.

          Back-to-school update.

Shenandoah County Schools: Schools start date set for August 31st

  • 100% virtual learning for the first nine weeks of the fall semester.
  • The earliest return to the blended instruction model with some on-person learning would be at the nine-week mark.

          Back-to-school update.

Waynesboro Schools: First day set for August 31st

  • 100% remote learning this fall for the first semester.
  • The remote learning model will consist of remote, virtual and packet information.
  • Internet-ready devices or wireless hotspots will be provided to students who need devices or Internet access.

          Back-to-school update.

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

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     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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