Representatives from VACo Regions 1 and 2 broke new ground on April 30 by participating in VACo’s first regional meeting to be conducted by virtual means. County representatives were joined by Delegate Amanda Batten, Delegate Emily Brewer, and Delegate Carrie Coyner, who reflected on the recently-concluded reconvened session and discussed ways that localities can work with their legislative representatives in the coming months. Delegate Batten discussed the state’s transition from the legislative session to a fully-mobilized pandemic response. Delegate Brewer provided an update on the plans for a potential special session in the summer to revise the biennium budget in light of the economic shock created by the COVID-19 pandemic. She pointed out that the experience of responding to the pandemic has enhanced both state and local knowledge of emergency preparedness. Delegate Coyner commended local governments for their creative responses to meeting local needs and encouraged members to reach out to the state for support.
VACo was pleased to welcome Dr. Megan Healy, Governor Northam’s Chief Workforce Development Advisor, and Bob Mauskapf, Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness at the Virginia Department of Health, to make presentations about the state’s response to the pandemic. Dr. Healy provided an overview of federal adjustments to unemployment compensation in the CARES Act, and discussed state efforts to address needs in the healthcare workforce. She also provided an update on the Governor’s plan for business reopening and long-term economic recovery planning. Mauskapf briefed participants on the state’s emergency response efforts, including the unified command structure’s work with hospitals and other health care providers, the deployment of volunteers serving in the state’s Medical Reserve Corps, and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE).
County representatives shared success stories and best practices from their responses to the pandemic, as well as shared challenges. The difficulty of securing PPE for local first responders and other staff was a common theme, as was the need for better information sharing with first responders about confirmed or suspected cases, the importance of broadband in supporting distance learning, stresses on local revenues, and the difficulty of adopting local budgets in an environment of significant uncertainty. An important topic of discussion was the critical need for consultation with local governments as the state works to reopen Virginia’s economy.
VACo appreciates the participation of members, legislators, special guest speakers, and sponsors in the meeting and looks forward to further conversation in person soon.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle