General Assembly Session Update: One Full Week Down

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

The 2021 General Assembly completed its first full week, and this virtual session is running smoothly thanks to the General Assembly staff and the cooperation of legislators and their staff. But it’s not the same as an in-person session. It’s very difficult for VPLC advocates to talk with legislators and their staff when everything must be done electronically. It’s difficult for legislators to interact with each other when they are not working in the same building, riding the elevators together, meeting together, passing each other in the hallways or dropping by each other’s offices. But it is in some ways easier for the public to participate in the process by signing up to speak via Zoom and submitting written comments.


HB1889 (Delegate Price): This bill would make permanent the policy passed during the 2020 special session that landlords must give tenants a 14-day notice before filing an eviction and larger landlords must offer tenants a payment plan. It passed a subcommittee in a 5-1 vote. Thank you to all the organizations and tenants that have spoken out in support of this legislation. Keep it up!

HB1900 (Delegate Hudson): This bill would increase the penalty for landlords that use illegal eviction tactics like cutting off the power or locking out tenants. It passed the House 54-44.

Consumer Rights

HB1814 (Delegate Krizek): This bill passed the committee unanimously and is now on the House floor for a final vote next week. It would allow a worker to keep either the state or federal minimum wage (whichever is higher) when the worker’s wages are garnished by a creditor.

Sale of Land for Delinquent Taxes, HB 2165 (Delegate Hope): More than half of American citizens die intestate, or without a will. In 2016, white individuals were about twice as likely as nonwhite individuals to have a will upon their death. This phenomenon, known as heirs’ property, is an overlooked contributing factor to persistent poverty among African Americans in the South. The Governor’s Commission to Examine Racial Inequities asked for this bill to create more opportunities for land to remain in the families that are most vulnerable to intergenerational wealth loss. The bill passed a subcommittee 10-0.

Health Insurance

Covering COVID-19 Services as “Emergency Only” Medicaid Services, HB2124 (Delegate Lopez) & Budget Amendments 313 #4H and #36S: Medicaid’s Emergency-Only services are now available for urgent health needs generally provided by hospital emergency departments (e.g., accidents, heart attacks, labor/delivery). As allowed by federal law, HB2124 appropriately broadens such services to COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccines. This bill passed one committee and was referred to another.

Public Benefits

HB2013 (Delegate Roem): This bill would require each school board to adopt a policy that prohibits the board from filing a lawsuit against a student’s parent because the student cannot pay for a meal at school or owes a school meal debt. The bill passed a subcommittee 5-3.

Elder Law

Simplify Access to Birth Certificates, SB1121 (Senator Locke): This bill, which would make it easier for individuals to make corrections to their birth certificates, passed out of committee. This issue, which particularly affects low-income older adults who have birth certificates that are handwritten and illegible due to home births and poor record keeping, has become more urgent as Real ID laws require individuals to use their birth certificates to obtain a Real ID that will soon be required to fly.

HB2018 (Delegate Mullin): This bill establishes a procedure for a court to order emergency adult protective services if an incapacitated adult has been subjected to an act of violence, force, or threat or been subjected to financial exploitation. It passed the committee 22-0 and is now on the House floor.

How You Can Help

Support SNAP Benefit Expansion for Over 25,000 Families: Delegate Helmer’s bill, HB1820, would implement Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility for SNAP in Virginia. The bill also makes eligible those pursuing various forms of postsecondary education for TANF and SNAP. We estimate that over 70,000 low-income college students will be eligible for SNAP through this bill. Senator McClellan has also introduced Budget Amendment 359 #2s to increase the gross income limit to 200% of the federal poverty line.

Show your support and/or your organization’s support for these legislative pieces by signing on to a letter to be delivered to the House, Senate, and the Governor.

Thanks, as always, for your support. We look forward to continuing to work together to break down the systemic barriers that keep low-income Virginians in the cycle of poverty.

Jay Speer
Executive Director, VPLC

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