Somebody’s got to do it. Linda Echols has driven school buses for Pittsylvania County for 48 years. At 75 years old, she’s at elevated risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. She is concerned about her safety when the school year starts back up this summer, but worries more about her students. In marked contrast to thousands of teachers from Virginia Beach to Fairfax County who are resisting in-person teaching this upcoming academic year, Echols is determined to stay by her post, according to this article in the Danville Register & Bee. “I have to pray and do it,” she says. “Somebody’s got to do it.” If Virginia public school children manage to get an education this year under the trying circumstances of the COVID epidemic, it will be due to unsung heroines like Linda Echols.
Unannounced inspections coming to a restaurant near you. How will Governor Ralph Northam enforce his emergency COVID-19 health-and-safety restrictions on restaurants and retailers announced earlier this week? The state will conduct unannounced inspections, with a focus on the Hampton Roads area where COVID-19 infections have increased in recent weeks, reports the Washington Business Journal. “If you own a restaurant or a business and you’re not following the regulations, your license will be on the line and we will not hesitate to take action if needed,” Northam said at a press conference Tuesday. Business groups have criticized the crackdown, saying they were not consulted in the drawing up of regulations.
Said Nicole Riley, Virginia state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, as reported by the Washington Examiner: “Gov. Northam ignored almost every suggestion we gave to make this proposal more palatable for small business by having his agency chiefs push through a labor-backed amendment at the last moment that raises business costs and adds regulatory burdens at the worst possible time.”
Does Virginia need another rent moratorium? Meanwhile, Northam is under pressure from activist groups to issue an executive order extending the moratorium on rental eviction cases. Activists are raising the specter of thousands of Virginians becoming homeless after losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 shutdowns and being unable to pay their rent, reports the Virginian-Pilot. “I think people are definitely panicked,” said ForKids CEO Thaler McCormick, which operates a housing crisis hotline. “The stress level has gone up. Some people are calling more than one time, elevating call volume.” The hotline has received more than 4,500 calls since the moratorium ended.
ForKids is one of 30 organizations distributing part of Virginia’s $50 million federal CARES Act funding designated for rental and mortgage assistance. Also, people thrown out of work have benefited from $600 weekly unemployment assistance for workers losing their jobs. While that subsidy expires at the end of July, it’s not self-evident why, between the two support programs, anyone should be at risk of being evicted. I have yet to see a Virginia reporter pose that question to eviction advocacy activists.