As the final days of the 2020 legislative session drawn near, the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund (VFAIF) is that much closer to reality.
Senator Jennifer McClellan’s bill, SB 1073, has now passed both the Senate and House of Delegates. It first passed the Senate unanimously on February 5, and it just passed the House of Delegates on March 4 by a vote of 77-19-1. The House counterpart to this bill, Delegate Delores McQuinn’s HB 1509, has seen similar success in the General Assembly thus far. It passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 84-13-1 on February 11 and finally passed the full Senate by a unanimous vote on March 5. Now, both SB 1073 and HB 1509 will be sent to the Governor for consideration and eventual signing.
The Virginia Food Access Investment Program and Fund provide funding for the construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, and innovative food retail projects in underserved communities. The effort is a refreshed and revamped form of a bill Delegate McQuinn has carried numerous times the past several years seeking to create the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund (VGIF). While the VGIF sought exclusively to provide funding for public-private partnerships that would aid in opening and expanding grocery stores in underserved communities (“food deserts”), the VFAIF has two components, one focusing on infrastructure and one focusing on nutrition efforts.
- Through a selected Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), the VFAIF will provide funding for the construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, and/or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, and innovative small food retail projects in underserved communities.
- On the nutrition incentive side, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) of will partner with public and private sector partners to increase the number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailers who participate in the Virginia Fresh Match Incentive Program. The Incentive Program provides SNAP recipients with a $1 to $1 match for nutritious fruits and vegetables.
While both bills creating the VFAIF are in good shape, the real question that remains is the level of funding that the Budget will provide for the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund. The House included $5.8 million in FY 2021 for the Fund, while the Senate provided $611,805 in FY 2021 and $111,805 in FY 2022. The final level of funding is something the conference committee on the budget bill is currently trying to hammer out.
VACo Contact: Chris McDonald, Esq.