Virginia Chamber of Commerce Letter to Governor Northam: Funding Priorities for the ARPA.
RE: 2021 Special Session
Dear Governor Northam,
On behalf of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, our more than 27,000 business members, and our network of partners across the Virginia business community, we write to express our support for the following priorities to be funded from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for the upcoming special session:
Broadband. The COVID pandemic exposed the need for this critical infrastructure tool as schools transitioned to virtual classrooms, more employees worked from home, online commerce increased, and many medical appointments were held in virtual environments. Broadband has become a key undergird of support to other sectors of Virginia’s economy. The Chamber supports additional funding for broadband infrastructure to ensure businesses can reach markets, regions are economically competitive, and citizens have access to jobs, health care, information, and commerce.
Unemployment Insurance. As a result of the pandemic, the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) has processed over 1.6 million unemployment claims over the last 15 months. As a result, the Unemployment Trust Fund is now nearly depleted, and employers face a potential steep increase in payroll taxes. To ensure that future unemployment insurance taxes do not stifle employer hiring or become a drain to our economic recovery, the Chamber recommends that the state allocate significant funds to the unemployment insurance trust fund.
Child Care. During the pandemic, child care centers closed due to outbreaks, insufficient staffing, and declining enrollment. Now that businesses are re-opening, access to child care has become a major issue to getting employees back to work. Without adequate child care options, parents are unable to be present or fully perform at their workplace and the organization suffers. During the special session, the Chamber encourages the Governor and General Assembly to work collaboratively on a means to provide greater access to child care.
Site Development. One of the most common reasons Virginia loses manufacturing and supply chain projects is the lack of a well-prepared site or, in some cases, an available building. Many of these sites are located in distressed or doubly distressed communities in smaller metros and/or rural regions with above average unemployment and/or poverty rates. The Chamber recommends making significant investments in site readiness and development to ensure Virginia is competitive for transformational projects in manufacturing and the supply chain industry.
Tourism, Travel and Hospitality Industry. For almost 16 months in 2020 and 2021, the tourism, travel and hospitality industries saw a stark plunge in visitors and travelers. This multi-billion industry in Virginia was the hardest hit sector of Virginia’s economy. With Virginia’s mild climate, historical areas, diverse geography and location to the nation’s Capital, the Commonwealth is an ideal location for vacationers, conferences, and outdoor enthusiasts. To help this important part of Virginia’s economy rebound, the Chamber supports additional investments in this industry to help it recover from the pandemic induced downturn in the economy.
Small Businesses. Before the pandemic, over 95% of all employers were small businesses with 50 employees or less. Many of these small businesses are struggling to recover from the economic effects of COVID-19. Unfortunately, a major factor that is currently inhibiting business operations is a lack of a workforce. During the special session, we recommend that the Governor and General Assembly develop an incentive program that encourages individuals to reenter the workforce without increasing operational costs on employers.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Many black students find college unaffordable and out of their reach. HBCUs have historically filled the gap and continue to play an important role in providing educational and employment opportunities to students. Virginia benefits from a diverse educational and employment climate. The Virginia Chamber supports sufficient funding for Virginia’s HBCUs to help prepare our future workforce and grow our economy.
The American Rescue Plan Act funding provides Virginia a unique opportunity to fast-forward the recovery of our economy and provide new opportunity for growth to continue Virginia’s great legacy of being the Best State For Business.
We appreciate your diligent work to fund priorities to improve our commonwealth and come back from this pandemic stronger than before.
President & CEO