By Del. Carrie Coyner
Since the conclusion of the House Session, the Commonwealth of Virginia has been overwhelmed by the impact of the COVID-19 virus, and our office has attempted to respond quickly to anyone with questions or needs. We have also provided updates as necessary to those affected by closures or restrictions issued by the governor.
Our House office will remain open to provide support to constituents. Our No. 1 priority is to keep people well. We are also very sensitive to the impact that this is having on families, individuals, businesses, and our local governments. We continue to communicate with the governor and state and federal agencies to determine how best to provide support. If you need to reach our office, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (804) 698-1062.
Most questions we receive are about public gatherings and how businesses must function. Gov. Northam issued an order directing Virginians to avoid non essential gatherings of more than 10 people. This restriction does not apply to normal operations of essential services such as transportation services, grocery stores, pharmacies, manufacturing families, and medical facilities.
To protect those at higher risk, individuals with chronic health conditions or aged 65 and older have been asked to self-quarantine.
For a complete list of actions taken by the governor related to COVID-19, visit virginia.gov/coronavirus-updates. Also, consult the Virginia Department of Health’s website for updated information about the virus and the extent of the outbreak in Virginia.
Here are updates on other matters that may affect you:
Schools – The Governor has ordered all public schools in Virginia to close, and our local school divisions have closed until after spring break. We expect the governor to announce additional details about school closings, testing, graduation, and other information about the impact to our students. Please visit the Virginia Board of Education’s website for the most accurate information on statewide impacts and your local school division website for local information.
Department of Motor Vehicles – All of Virginia’s DMV offices and mobile units are closed. Online services will remain available, and anyone needing to renew a license or vehicle registration may do it online. For those who cannot renew online, or who have a license or registration that expires before May 15th, the DMV will grant a 60-day extension.
Virginia state courts – The Supreme Court of Virginia has ordered all non essential, non-emergency court proceedings to suspend through April 6. This includes a suspension in eviction hearings. If you have ongoing matters before the courts, you may wish to reach out to your attorney or the appropriate clerk’s office for specific questions.
Utilities – The State Corporation Commission issued an order directing utilities (natural gas, electric, and water companies) to suspend service disconnections for 60 days.
Prisons and jails in Virginia – Visitation is currently cancelled at all facilities to protect people from spread of the virus. Off-site video visitation is still available. A dedicated COVID-19 public information line is operational at (804) 887-8484.
Workers impacted by current changes – The one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits has been waived to ensure that workers receive benefits as soon as possible. Workers may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits if an employer needs to temporarily slow or cease operations due to COVID-19. If a worker has been issued a notice to self-quarantine by a medical or public health official and is not receiving paid sick or medical leave from his or her employer, that worker may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. In addition, workers may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they must stay home to care for ill family membes and are not receiving paid family medical leave from their employers.