On March 23, Governor Ralph Northam, Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran, Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne, and Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey participated in a conference call with members of the VACo Board of Directors and representatives from the Virginia Municipal League to discuss the impacts of the COVID-19 virus to the Commonwealth. The conversation focused on measures being undertaken to mitigate the spread of the disease and ways in which the state and local governments could work together on a variety of issues.
Governor Northam began the call emphasizing the primacy of public health during this crisis and gave an overview of the number of individuals in Virginia who have tested positive for the virus and the number of fatalities that have been directly attributed to it. The need to contain and mitigate the virus as much as possible at this time prompted Governor Northam to issue Executive Order 53, which among other provisions closed all public K-12 schools in Virginia, prohibited all public and private in-person gatherings of 10 individuals or more, closed all dining and congregation areas in restaurants and related food and beverage establishments while permitting take-out, closed all public access to recreational and entertainment establishments, and detailed the list of essential businesses that may remain open to the public during normal business hours. Additional restrictions were subsequently imposed by Executive Order 55, which directs individuals to remain in their residences with certain exceptions and expands the limitations and prohibitions on public gatherings and spaces.
Secretaries Moran, Layne, and Carey spoke to how their different Departments are responding to the virus. This included detailing what violations of the provisions of the Executive Order would entail, Virginia’s request for additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and testing kits from the Strategic National Stockpile, the economic and budgetary impacts of the virus and efforts to mitigate its spread, and the challenges of testing for the virus given the shortage of available testing kits.
The three Secretaries then took questions from Board members and Staff. In addition to further discussion of health measures needed to contain and mitigate the virus’s spread, discussion focused on potential state revenue shortfall in excess of $1 billion per year over the course of the biennium and the potential impact to local governments who are also in the midst of formulating their annual budgets. Secretary Layne emphasized that before a biennial budget can be signed, the Administration will be evaluating any potential changes in coordination with the House and Senate Finance Committees. Call participants stressed the importance of not making systemic long-term changes to any funding streams if cuts in appropriations are necessary as well the need to examine recent legislation forwarded to the Governor from the General Assembly that would impose additional unfunded mandates on local governments.
VACo appreciates the opportunity to engage in dialogue with state policy leaders and to share the concerns and ideas of local governments on how to best mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. We will continue to provide updates on any future conversations with state policy leaders. Additional state information and resources can be found here.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett