This week, I invite the community to join me for our Reproductive Justice Town Hall, highlight my visit to Clark Springs Elementary, share new COVID-19 test information, discuss the six months of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and our nation-wide formula shortage, provide details about a few upcoming community events, and reflect on my travels throughout the district this past week. Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and for staying informed.
Tragedy in Buffalo
The recent tragedy in Buffalo, New York, reminds us that the rise of white supremacist rhetoric and its “normalization” in some circles lead to horrific consequences. Innocent people were shot and killed, families shattered, and our communities sent reeling once again. The 18-year old responsible for these murders and for this act of domestic terrorism shared a manifesto and numerous social media posts outlining his racist ideology and the brutality of the plans that he was planning. He considered first, he stated, targeting a church or elementary school, but then cited “online research in choosing Buffalo as his site of attack -- saying the 14208 ZIP code in Buffalo has a higher Black population than the other locations he was considering.”
It’s a cold and evil calculus that brought this man to the TOPS grocery store. His actions, however, did not occur in a vacuum. Racism, racist dog whistles, and pandering to the worst instincts of people laid the foundation for his actions. Confronting this reality and responding to it effectively requires that we all be committed to honest dialogue, constructive debate, and a reckoning with the full history of this country. I hope that we will take the profound tragedy of this moment to chart a path for Virginia that rejects violence, racist ideology, and all the deep divisions that come from a refusal to see our common humanity.
Reproductive Justice Town Hall
On Tuesday, May 31, I will host a town hall focused on reproductive justice. Special guests Senator Jennifer McClellan, Kenda Sutton-El of Birth In Color RVA, Dora Muhammad of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Stephanie Spencer of Urban Baby Beginnings, and Paulette McElwain of the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood will be joining me in this discussion.
The draft opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States confirms what we long feared: safe and legal access to abortion is imperiled all across the country. Join us as we discuss what the draft opinion means for Virginia, and as we especially focus on issues of reproductive justice for minority communities in the Commonwealth. Registration for the town hall is here. We look forward to having you participate in this important discussion.
Visiting Fox Elementary Staff & Students
On Tuesday, my staff and I toured Fox Elementary at Clark Springs, where our Fox students are finishing their school year after a tragic fire destroyed this historic Richmond landmark. Despite the many hardships, the Fox Elementary and Richmond Public Schools community rallied together and navigated this difficult transition while leading with heart.
I thank the teachers and staff who let us into their classrooms and Principal Jacobs who led our tour. Contributions to support the restoration of Fox Elementary can still be made through the Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation.
COVID-19 At-Home Tests
On Tuesday, the White House announced that all households in the United States now qualify for an additional eight free at-home COVID-19 test kits from the federal government. This comes at a crucial time, as we see cases begin to rise again across the Commonwealth. Data shows that Virginia has averaged nearly 3,000 new cases per day since the beginning of February. To order your free at-home tests, visit the USPS website. Additional information about COVID-19 vaccines, masking, and more can be found on COVID.gov, as well as on the Virginia Department of Health’s website.
Celebrating Six Months of Infrastructure Law
This past weekend, Virginians were able to celebrate the six-month anniversary of the passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, legislation that provides once-in-a-generation investments in infrastructure and creates jobs in the technology, energy, transportation, and construction sectors. We can expect to see these investments and more in the Commonwealth:
Specifically, affordable broadband access is essential to the growing reliance on high speed internet connectivity in today’s world. Right now, 9.7% of Virginians live where there is no broadband connection and 13.3% of Virginians do not have an internet subscription, oftentimes because the cost of connecting to the internet is too high for many families. Internet accessibility for low-income Virginians must be achieved to bridge Virginia’s digital divide, something that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is actively working to mend. The new Commonwealth Connection tool maps our progress throughout Virginia.
More money will be invested in ports, broadband expansion, and other essential programs. For far too long, roadblocks in Congress have stifled the efforts to improve infrastructure, especially in neglected communities. These historic investments would not have been possible without the leadership of the Democratic members of Virginia’s Congressional Delegation.
National Baby Formula Shortage
Following the closure of Abbott Nutrition, one of the major distributors of baby formula in the United States, and supply chain issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginians have been feeling the dangerous effects of a national formula shortage. Earlier this week, Virginia’s United States Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, sent a letter calling on the Infant Nutrition Council of America to mitigate the shortage as soon as possible and President Biden announced that he would invoke the Defense Production Act to address the infant formula shortage. Under the Defense Protection Act, suppliers will be required to direct necessary resources to infant formula manufacturers before supplying their other customers. President Biden also launched Operation Fly Formula, calling for Department of Defense commercial aircraft to collect infant formula from overseas that meets U.S. health and safety standards while domestic manufacturers ramp up production.
Even with these actions taking place, it is still expected to take a number of weeks before families see large quantities of formula return to store shelves. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recognizes that families need relief now and has compiled a list of resources to aid families during this crisis. As additional information becomes available, I will share resources via my newsletter, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Return of the Asian American Celebration
This Saturday, May 21, the Asian American Society of Central Virginia will host the 24th annual Asian American Celebration, marking its return after a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The festivities will include local Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) food vendors, cultural performances, hands-on activities, and more. Families can join the celebration at the Richmond Convention Center (403 North 3rd Street) from 11:00 am until 7:00 pm. Admission to the event is free.
In a time during which we continue to see a rise in hate crimes and violence against the AAPI community, these celebrations of culture and diversity reflect resilience and triumph. I and fellow members of the Virginia Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus (VAAPIC) look forward to attending and connecting with the other visitors.
E-Cycle Event for Richmond Residents
This Saturday, the City of Richmond Department of Public Works, the Clean City Commission, and the Department of Public Utilities will be co-hosting a drive-through e-cycle event from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm at Broad Rock Sports Complex (4825 Old Warwick Road). Services include the following:
Please note that masks are required, and residents must stay in vehicles while volunteers unload recyclables. Proof of Richmond residency is required to participate. More information is available at the Clean City Commission website or by email at email@example.com.
Community Events This Week
Last Friday, John Tyler Community College (JTCC) held commencement exercises. Commencement Speaker and JTCC student Jada Fernandez articulated a theme of “We Don’t Quit” in her powerful speech. I was honored to join graduates as they completed this milestone—one that could not have been achieved without their determination and the support of JTCC faculty and staff.
On Monday, I visited with the executives and employees at Paymerang in Chesterfield County to present SR 26, a resolution commending the company’s work throughout the Commonwealth and across the nation. During COVID-19, Paymerang launched the Paymerang CARES Program, which helped distribute over $35.6 million CARES Act funds to college students. Paymerang also supported local governments and other partners in the distribution of federal PPP funds throughout the pandemic.
Connecting With My Office
My staff continue to hold meetings with constituents via Zoom or by phone. You can sign up for a meeting with either of my staff members with our easy scheduling app: