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Virginia Updates Newsletter for May 9, 2023

Don't wait until the last minute to cast your ballot 🗳

In today’s Virginia Updates Newsletter, we cover the upcoming primary election with Early voting now open to all registered voters. Early voting ends June 17, 2023, and voters can submit their ballots by mail requesting an absentee ballot (must be returned by June 20). Remember to bring an acceptable form of identification, such as a driver's license or passport.

In other news 📰 clean up continues in Virginia Beach after the EF-3 tornado that hit the area last week. If you're looking to help, Volunteer Hampton Roads are looking for volunteers. The Virginia Department of Health is retiring the COVIDWISE app on May 11, but users can still view their exposure history. Additionally, Medicaid is being unwound in Virginia, causing many to lose their coverage. Check your eligibility status and reapply for coverage if needed. And much more, continue reading below!


Early Voting Now Open


The Virginia primary elections will take place on June 20, 2023. Eligible voters have several options to cast their ballots, including early voting, absentee voting, or in-person voting on Election Day.


Early voting in Virginia started on May 5, 2023, and will continue until June 17, 2023. Registered voters can cast their ballots in person at their local registrar's office or at designated early voting locations.


To register to vote in Virginia, citizens must be at least 18 years old by Election Day, a U.S. citizen, and a resident of Virginia. The deadline to register to vote is May 30, 2023.


Voters who prefer to vote by mail can request an absentee ballot, which must be requested by June 9, 2023. The deadline to return an absentee ballot is Election Day, June 20, 2023.


In addition, the Virginia Department of Elections has provided a voter guide to assist voters in their decision-making process, including a list of candidates for statewide offices, including governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, as well as for the House of Delegates and local elections.


It is important to note that voters will be required to present an acceptable form of identification, such as a driver's license or passport, when voting in person. Voters who do not have an acceptable form of identification can request a free Voter ID card from their local registrar's office.


See who is on your ballot by viewing the candidate lists.


Register to vote or apply for an absentee ballot online using the Citizen Portal.



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Tornado Clean Up


It’s been a week since an EF-3 tornado hit Virginia Beach, causing damage to homes and properties.


Cleanup efforts are still ongoing, with debris scattered throughout the affected areas. Officials are urging residents to exercise caution and patience during the cleanup process and to follow safety guidelines when cleaning up their own properties. Many residents have been left without homes and are seeking assistance from local organizations and government agencies.


The city of Virginia Beach says nine homes were destroyed, 36 have major damage, and 33 have minor damage. The city also says the cost of the damage is estimated to be more than $16 million.


Neighbors are coming together to help each other, with some offering temporary shelter to those who lost their homes. Officials are still working on determining which homes are a total loss and which can be repaired.


If you’re looking to help, Volunteer Hampton Roads are looking to people to lend a helping hand. According to their website, volunteers are needed asap through May 31. To sign up, visit volunteerhr.org.



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COVIDWISE Retiring


The Virginia Department of Health has announced that it will retire the COVIDWISE app on May 11, 2023


The app was launched in August 2020 to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by notifying users if they had been in close contact with someone who tested positive. With the covid pandemic winding down and the national public health emergency ending, the state has decided to retire the app.


When the app is disabled on May 11, users may simply delete it from their phones. COVIDWISE Express users can turn off exposure notifications in Settings.


Users can still download the app to view their exposure history but will not receive any further notifications. Those looking for more information on COVID-19 in Virginia can visit the Virginia Department of Health website.


Officials say that the COVIDWISE app has helped the state's contact tracing efforts and that the data collected has been used to identify outbreaks and track the virus's spread. More than three million users downloaded the app or used COVIDWISE Express, and has alerted thousands of users who came in close contact with some who reported they tested positive for COVID-19.


For more information on COVID-19 in Virginia, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus. To access your COVID-19 vaccine record, visit the COVID-19 Vaccine Record Request Portal.



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Medicaid Clarification


Virginia is one of several states that are unwinding Medicaid, which will cause many individuals to lose their coverage due to the end of the pandemic emergency.


On May 1, the program began dropping coverage for an estimated 300,000 Virginians who relied on Medicaid for health coverage as the state re-evaluated their eligibility over the next 12 to 14 months. An additional 80,000 people could have lost coverage, at least temporarily, for failing to respond to letters requiring them to apply to renew their coverage.


The decision to unwind Medicaid comes as the federal government's COVID-19 public health emergency is set to expire on July 20th. With the emergency no longer in place, states are required to resume pre-pandemic rules and regulations for Medicaid enrollment. This means that those who had previously qualified for Medicaid under the emergency provisions will need to reapply and meet the regular eligibility criteria.


The unwinding process is likely to be particularly challenging for individuals who have lost income or employment due to the pandemic and now face the possibility of losing their healthcare coverage. However, Virginia's Medicaid agency is working to ensure that individuals who are still eligible for Medicaid will be able to maintain their coverage.


To qualify for Medicaid in Virginia, individuals must have a household income that is at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. Pregnant women, children under 19, and individuals with disabilities may be eligible for Medicaid with higher incomes. Virginia is one of 38 states that has expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, allowing adults without dependent children to qualify for coverage.


Individuals who are concerned about losing their Medicaid coverage can check their eligibility status and reapply for coverage through the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services website or by calling their local Department of Social Services. Medicaid enrollment is open year-round, so individuals who may be newly eligible can also apply at any time.


To find more information, including answers to frequently asked questions and resources for members, stakeholders and partners, visit CoverVA.org or CubreVirginia.org.



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Teacher Pay


Virginia teachers are being paid below the national average, with an average salary of $62,104.


Virginia also ranked third from the bottom for competitive teacher pay in the United States when compared to other professions that demand a comparable level of education, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute.


Several bills are under consideration to address this issue, including HB 1497 and HB 1566 that require public school teachers to be compensated at or above the national average, respectively,


These bills would still likely have a large impact, because teacher pay in Virginia varies widely by locality. A 2017 report found that starting teacher salaries in Smyth County averaged just $32,300, while starting pay in wealthy Arlington County was $48,228 — a gap of over $15,000 a year.


Virginia lawmakers’ lack of a timetable for finalizing state budget amendments has left public school leaders uncertain about their own budgets. Some division heads say they are uneasy about their ability to hire and retain teachers because of the lack of clarity on state funding for the next school year. Localities are now considering whether they should increase their own budgets to accommodate the expected salary changes before hitting state deadlines.


Under the existing two-year budget, teachers will receive a 5% salary raise for the upcoming school year. Both the House and Senate are proposing amendments to provide an additional 2% raise, increasing the salary total to 7%, but with negotiations still ongoing, divisions are uncertain about what they can offer teachers.



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Virginia Updates


WRIC - Huzzah! Virginia Renaissance Faire returns to celebrate 21 years of post-Medieval fun. From May 13 to June 11, the festival will feature a variety of activities and events, including jousting, sword fighting, musical performances, and craft vendors. The Faire will be held Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lake Anna Winery, 5621 Courthouse Road in Spotsylvania County. For more information about the Faire visit their website here and tickets can be purchased on the day of the event at the ticket booth, and online here. Attendees are advised to print out or take a screenshot of their ticket, as not all phones will have service onsite.


The Virginian-Pilot - Virginia cities work to update sewer systems in advance of climate change tests. The increased heavy rain has burdened older sewer systems of Virginia cities like Richmond, Alexandria and Lynchburg. Over time, these cities have sent billions of gallons of untreated wastewater into state rivers during heavy rain events when the sewer backs up. All are actively working to upgrade there sewer systems, but there are concerns there is not enough funding to fix the issues soon enough, amid increasing precipitation rates. In Richmond, the combined sewer system currently services one third of the city, according to Justin Doyle, director of community conservation at the James River Association, which publishes the annual report card. Richmond has already invested an estimated $315 million over the years to improve the combined sewer system, according to Doyle.


 

As always, if you have any questions or comments, we'd love to hear from you. Thanks again for reading and to stay up-to-date on Virginia news, follow us @we_vote_va!

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