SPECIAL EDITION: Virginia 2021 General Assembly Legislative Session
The Virginia General Assembly is now in session and scheduled to adjourn February 27. Many bills and budget amendments are under consideration that will assist refugees and other recent immigrants who are making Virginia their home.
Provided is a list of the most relevant proposals for the refugee and immigrant communities, organized by policy area. They include the name of the chief sponsor of and links to the bill or budget amendment. TSOS supports public involvement in helping to shape more equitable policies and we invite you to stay updated and contact your representatives for those issues that you feel strongly about. Contact links shared below.
Immigration & Refugee Assistance
- Improving Access to Services and Employment
- HB1800 Item 355 #1h: Del. Tran- Requests $7.5 million for translation services within Dept. of Social Services to improve access to local resources for VA immigrants, and for the Office of New Americans to issue competitive grants to community and faith-based organizations that serve VA immigrants
- HB1800 Item 52 #5h: Del. Tran- Refugee Workforce Study of how Virginia can help refugees fully participate in our workforce and lower barriers to employment.
- HB1800 Item 52 #4h: Del, Tran- Language Access Workgroup to develop recommendations on how to improve language access across state agencies
- Paid Sick Days for Essential Workers – Establish a standard of 5 paid sick days for full-time “essential” employees in Virginia
- HB 2137– Delegate Elizabeth Guzman
- Prenatal Care for All Mothers – Two companion budget amendments to extend Medicaid/FAMIS MOMS prenatal care to undocumented women who meet all other non-immigration eligibility criteria
- HB 1800 Item 313 #16h (Medicaid program cost decrease) – Delegate Elizabeth Guzman
- HB 1800 Item 312 #1h (FAMIS program revenue increase) – Delegate Elizabeth Guzman
- SB 1100 Item 312 #1s – Senator Jennifer McClellan
- SB 1387: Sen. Boysko & HB 2123: Del. Lopez- Makes all in-state tuition eligible students eligible for financial aid
- HB 2138: Del. Guzman- Creates non-driver ID cards for immigrants in Virginia
- HB 2163: Del. Tran- Increases data protection for Drivers Privilege Cardholders
The following legislative proposals are aimed at helping broader groups of Virginians, but will also benefit immigrant and refugee communities.
Farm Worker Justice
- Access to the Minimum Wage– many farmworkers in Virginia are not subject to federal or state minimum wage laws leading to some to be paid under $5/hour.
- HB 1786– Delegate Jeion Ward
- Heat Stress– Create standards for outdoor workers including water breaks and shade access on extremely hot days
- HB 1785– Delegate Jeion Ward; SB 1358– Senator Ghazala Hashmi
- HB 2124: Del. Lopez- Deems COVID Vaccine, Testing, & Treatment to be Emergency Services
- HJ 537: Del. Aird- Recognizes that racism is a public health crisis
- HB 2037: Del. Tran- Allows unemployed Virginians to keep their unemployment benefits and not have to return to work if they have a COVID-19 diagnosis, are caring for a family member with COVID-19, or believe their workplace is not complying with Virginia’s COVID-19 workplace safety standards.
Housing Justice & Eviction Protection
- HB 2014: Del. Price- Expand right of redemption and improve notice to tenants
- HB 1889: Del. Price- Gives families time to pay rent and stay housed
- HB 1900: Del. Hudson; SB 1215: Sen. Ebbin- Stops unlawful evictions
- HB 1981: Del. Carr- Protect vulnerable tenants during a pandemic
- HB 1814: Del. Krizek- Garnishment of Wages protection, updated calculation
- HB 1864: Del. Price- Adds Domestic Workers to Virginia Human Rights Act
- HB 2032: Del. Gooditis & SB 1310: Sen. McClellan- Provides employee protections for domestic workers
- HB 2063: Del. Mullin- Overtime wage compensation requirement
Take Action - Now Is the Time! We encourage everyone to contact their State Senator and State Delegate to ask their support for the bills about which you feel most strongly. You can find your elected officials and their contact information at whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov.
How does a refugee move forward in a new country? How do they bridge the gaps they face that are necessary for integration into a new place? Most importantly, how do they learn the language fast enough to get a job and be productive in their communities? One ESL program in Virginia's southeast region targeting mothers and children conducts classes over Zoom, offering both language skills and a sense of community for women who are often more isolated.
As much as my newcomer friends may need help in successfully integrating into their new communities, the rest of us have much to gain from their lived experience, maybe especially in a pandemic-filled world of uncertainty.
Through a successful model of building welcoming communities, Fairfax County, Virginia brings community-based organizations together to better meet the needs of vulnerable populations.