VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Gov. Ralph Northam wants to use $353 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding to help Virginia’s small businesses.
Northam announced the budget proposal on Monday at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, which features many businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry hit hard by the pandemic. He was joined by House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, and local delegates Kelly Convirs-Fowler, Nancy Guy and Alex Askew.
The American Rescue Plan Act, signed by President Joe Biden on March 11, allocated $7.2 billion to Virginia and its local governments. That funding is on top of a $500 million-plus revenue surplus that Virginia was already sitting on.
Northam is proposing a $250 million investment in the Rebuild VA economic recovery grand program, $50 million for Virginia Tourism Corporation initiatives and $53 million for additional small business aid, which includes the Industrial Revitalization Fund and Virginia Main Street program.
“Virginia is roaring back stronger than we could have imagined one year ago, but small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and they need additional support to get back on their feet,” Northam said in a press release. “With the American Rescue Plan, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild from the impacts of the pandemic, revitalize our communities, and invest in our shared prosperity. That’s why I am proposing $353 million to bolster the Commonwealth’s successful recovery initiatives that target our hard-hit tourism and hospitality sectors, main streets, small businesses, and nonprofits.”
“I have also been a small business owner. My husband and I have had to use our personal equity line to meet payroll when cash flow failed. So, I know what you’ve been against and nobody has struggled like our hospitality-related industries,” said Del. Nancy Guy at Monday’s press event.
Rebuild VA has already awarded $120 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to more than 3,000 small businesses and nonprofits so far, Northam’s office says, and the $250 million investment will help meet demand.
“Rebuild VA has been a lifeline of support for countless Virginia businesses,” said Sen. Janet Howell, Chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations and Committee. “With so many businesses still in the queue for funding, there is no question that the General Assembly needs to approve the full amount to provide support to these businesses, and to allow new applications to be filed.”
At the press conference, a $100,000 check was presented to the owner of Mizuno Japanese Restaurant from Rebuild VA.
Northam has called a General Assembly special session this August to determine how to spend the federal funding.
After Northam’s announcement Monday, the Virginia Restaurant Lodging and Travel Association president issued a statement applauding the decision.
“We are pleased that Governor Northam has recognized the continuing crisis for Virginia’s tourism and hospitality industry and has answered our calls to assist the industry’s pandemic recovery. Given the struggles many of these businesses still face, we hope that the program will distribute funds quickly and offer flexibility to help get them back on their feet. Tourism and hospitality losses in Virginia have totaled $14 billion, and nearly half of the job losses caused by the pandemic statewide were in our industry. A stronger tourism and hospitality industry means a stronger Virginia, and VRLTA applauds Governor Northam’s announcement today, which would put us on the right path to recovery,” VRLTA President Eric Terry said.
Northam is also expected to make a “major announcement” with General Assembly leaders coming up on Tuesday in Norfolk.