State elected officials will decide how to invest federal relief funding during a special legislative session starting next week
This text was taken from an email alert sent out on July 29, 2021. Sign up for email alerts >>
I hope you’re finding ways to stay cool as we make our way through the height of the summer heat. With August just around the corner, things are heating up in Richmond as well, with the Virginia General Assembly scheduled to begin a special legislative session this coming Monday, Aug. 2.
Legislators are returning to Richmond at the request of Governor Northam in order to allocate more than $4.3 billion in federal Covid-19 relief funding, representing Virginia’s share of the $195 billion in emergency funding for state governments included in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed by Congress in March 2021.
While we wait for the governor to release his budget proposal, PEC and our partners in the Virginia conservation community believe that this influx of funding represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in protecting Virginia’s environment and the natural spaces that proved so essential over the past year.
To that end, PEC staff have been actively engaged in outreach to the Northam Administration and state legislators in support of several proposals (outlined below) we believe should be prioritized as the state makes decisions about the allocation of this federal funding. We also need your help to ensure that legislators know how critically important these priorities are to their constituents.
Since the special session starts on Monday and is only expected to last two weeks, it’s important that your legislators hear from you soon. Please take a moment to send a letter to your state delegate and senator and ask for their support of the proposals below.
If you would prefer to reach out by phone, you can find their contact information using the Who’s My Legislator webpage.
Funding priorities we’re focused on this session:
- $100 million for Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF) Open Space & Parks Category: VLCF is the primary state grant program supporting public land acquisition in the commonwealth, but is regularly underfunded in the state budget. Several critical initiatives in the Piedmont region benefit from VLCF, including farmland protection that is a focus of the Upper Rappahannock initiative and matching funds for other projects in Orange, Culpeper and Madison. The rescue plan represents a historic opportunity to provide a “shot-in-the-arm” to VLCF and help protect the outdoor spaces critical to Virginians’ health and well-being.
- $225 million for State Parks Maintenance: During the pandemic, visitation to our state parks exploded, yet many of these parks, which serve as economic drivers for local communities, have significant deferred maintenance backlogs in need of immediate attention, including repairs and replacement of important visitor services infrastructure. In PEC’s region, Sky Meadows State Park needs increased investment in trails and facilities to keep up with the unprecedented use it’s seen over the past two years.
- $300 million for Long Distance Trails and Greenways: Trails have been a lifeline for many during the pandemic, providing a safe means of transportation and recreation. Significant funding for new regional trails will help to spur economic growth in both urban and rural areas, while also ensuring every Virginia community has access to a multi-use trail network. Some of the trail and greenway plans for Charlottesville and Albemarle, the Loudoun plan based on the Emerald Ribbons concept, and PEC’s Town to Trail project in Gordonsville and Orange could all benefit.
- $50 million for Urban Tree Canopy: Many urban areas across Virginia, including small towns like Stanardsville in our region, are in need of investment in the expansion and protection of their tree canopy. Trees provide numerous environmental and health benefits, including reducing air pollution and urban heat islands. Formerly redlined communities, like the city of Charlottesville and towns of Culpeper, Gordonsville and Leesburg, especially need these benefits. They often have fewer trees and higher temperatures.
Thank you for taking a moment to lend your voice to capitalize on this unique funding opportunity and help ensure the natural beauty of Virginia’s Piedmont is both preserved and accessible to for generations to come.
As always, feel free to reach out to me or Dan Holmes, our Director of State Policy, at email@example.com with any questions about PEC’s state policy work.
Senior Policy Manager