Northam’s budget adds over $860 million to unemployment insurance fund

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is introducing two more spending proposals for the state’s $4.3 billion share of federal coronavirus relief money, calling for investments in clean water projects and over $860 million to replenish the state’s unemployment trust fund.

Northam’s plan would inject an additional $862 million into Virginia’s unemployment insurance trust fund, preventing tax increases on businesses and continuing to ensure that employers are not penalized for layoffs as a result of the pandemic.

“Shoring up the Commonwealth’s unemployment insurance trust fund is a smart investment that will prevent Virginia businesses from paying higher taxes and allow our economy to continue surging,” Northam said in a news release.

“This continued investment will ensure the long-term viability of the trust fund and allow Virginia businesses to put their limited resources toward hiring workers rather than paying taxes,” Secretary of Labor Megan Healy added.

Virginia’s unemployment insurance system distributed nearly $13 billion to more than 1.3 million residents between the start of the pandemic and May 2021. It claims to be among the nation’s top states for delivering insurance to eligible individuals, with approximately 85% of applicants getting their benefits within three weeks of submitting a claim.

The Democratic governor has been incrementally rolling out his plans ahead of the special legislative session that begins next week, when lawmakers will vote on how to allocate the money.

While the Democrat-controlled House and Senate must approve the spending, the administration has been crafting the spending plan in collaboration with legislators and budget committee staff.

Republicans, meanwhile, criticized Democrats’ approach to spending a vast amount of taxpayer money as lacking in transparency.

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