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January 26, 2024

Untangling the Red Tape of Unemployment Oversights

VPLC Attorney Flannery O’Rourke has been working tirelessly on behalf of Virginia’s unemployed workers. 

She says many workers applied for benefits in good faith, were found entitled to benefits, but months or years later were told to return the money. The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) claims they were overpaid, and never should have received the payments.

Several key pieces of legislation would help to prevent overpayments and limit their adverse effects. House Bill 14 (Ware) aims to improve initial decisions of entitlement, so that VEC makes the right decision the first time and avoids unnecessary appeals or overpayments. The bill passed unanimously in the House Labor and Commerce Subcommittee #2 on Thursday. The companion bill, Senate Bill 381 (Ebbin) is up in Senate Commerce and Labor on Monday, 1/29.

Two additional pieces of legislation aim to place reasonable limitations on overpayment recovery. Senate Bill 382 (Ebbin) and Senate Bill 536 (Bagby), passed unanimously in the Senate Commerce and Labor committee this week and now move to the Senate Finance committee for consideration.

Learn more in media reports this week from The Virginian Pilot and Virginia Public Media.

Above and below: both bills cleared the Senate Commerce and Labor committee unanimously


Virginia Needs to Put a Stop to the "Hunger Games"

Children can't learn in school when they're too hungry to think.

A bill that would provide free meals for all public school students in the state has made it to the Senate Finance and Appropriations committee, following approval of the Senate Education and Health committee. House Bill 686 (Bennett-Parker) has been assigned to the House Appropriations Elementary & Secondary Education sub-committee.

“This is about making sure that every kid who goes to school gets fed — no questions asked,” Sen. Danica Roem, D-Manassas, the patron for Senate Bill 283, has said.

The proposal would cost an estimated $346 million over the next two years. 

How much food does $23 get you?

That's the minimum SNAP benefit for eligible, low-income seniors, leading many to go hungry each month.

VPLC is advocating for legislation in the form of budget amendments that would increase the minimum to $50 monthly. Still, the USDA confirms that groceries for just two people likely cost more than $400 a month.

Many seniors lost more than $258 in monthly SNAP benefits after Emergency Allotments ended in March 2023. By 2023, food prices increased 23% over 2020 costs.

Learn more about the issue of senior hunger.


13,000 kids in low-income Virginia families don’t have comprehensive health coverage due to archaic eligibility rules.


Which TWO would you pick?: medical care for your child, rent, or food on the table? 

It's a cruel choice for parents. And we cannot let it continue.

VPLC supports the Cover All Kids plan to expand Medicaid to low-income children who are currently blocked from health coverage because of their immigration status. Senate Bill 231 (Hashmi) and House Bill 970 (Tran) are leading the way — and Sen. Creigh Deeds' proposed budget amendment would support the program while providing critical emergency care for Virginians of all ages who can't access Medicaid due to their immigration status. 


Parents need better legal representation.

When it comes to child dependency cases, judges say they cannot find attorneys willing to take cases. Parents say attorneys don't take their calls and don't advocate for them in court.

Virginia is ranked 47th out of 50 states in finding permanent homes for children who otherwise age out of foster care.

House Bill 893 (McClure) would provide high-quality, multi-disciplinary legal services for parents, vastly improving the outcomes for children in foster care.

If Virginia’s 5,000 children in foster care spent one month less in care, Virginia would save more that $25 million each year.  


Invest in minimum wage.

Legislation that would increase Virginia's minimum hourly wage from $12 to $13.50 in 2025 and $15 in 2026 an hour is moving ahead in the Virginia General Assembly, as Democrats use narrow majorities in both chambers to continue efforts that began in 2020.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin is unlikely to support the legislation, filed as Senate Bill 1 (Lucas) and House Bill 1 (Ward). Youngkin told reporters this week that market forces do a better job of determining hourly pay rates.  

Don't leave people in the dark.

Lower-income households proportionately spend more of their money on energy bills than any other income group.

Despite the hardship, only 30% of eligible Virginia residents receive the help they need to keep their keep their utilities running.

House Bill 906 (Shin) and Senate Bill 480 (Aird) provide safeguards to help prevent unnecessary utility shut-offs in perilous times. See VPLC's recommendations to help residents in need.


The majority of families living in Virginia's manufactured homes earn less than the median income.

A home in Chesterfield County's Bermuda Estates, a mobile home park recently purchased by ProjectHOMES, a nonprofit organization. 

Rights for residents of manufactured home parks

Under current law, it’s possible for tenants facing an unlawful detainer to still be evicted even if they have paid their late rent, late payment fees. Manufactured Homeowners do own their own homes, but they don't own the land they sit on in mobile home communities.

Senate Bill 232 (Hashmi) and House Bill 572 (Delaney): strengthen the rights for residents of manufactured home parks by providing additional rights with rental agreements, late fees and eviction.

The legal right for the owner of a manufactured homeowner to redeem unpaid rent from an unlawful detainer is essential to letting homeowner stay in their home," says VPLC attorney Daniel Rezai. "They should have the same rights as traditional renters, this legislation seeks to give them just that."

Read more about the issue and the legislation in Virginia Mercury


Left: Kelsey Bagot; Right: Sam Towell

Lawmakers appoint SCC commissioners without opposition

Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly approved the appointments of two attorneys, Sam Towell and Kelsey Bagot, to serve as judges for the State Corporation Commission.

The three-judge panel has been short two judges for more than a year. Judge Jehmal Hudson has been the only sitting Virginia SCC commissioner since January of 2023. 

The SCC is an independent state agency regulating utilities, insurance, financial institutions, and business filings

Virginia and South Carolina are the only states to select utility regulators by legislative election.

Virginia Poverty Law Center
919 East Main St Suite 610 | Richmond, Virginia 23219
804-782-9430 | info@vplc.org
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