Category Archives: Social Services and Entitlements

Four Years In, Energy Subsidy Helping Very Few

From Dominion’s brochure on the PIPP program.

By Steve Haner

Four years after approval, a state program to provide lower electricity costs to low income families is still struggling to get going.  Administrative costs have far exceeded any actual benefits to utility customers to date.

It is called the Percentage of Income Payment Program (PIPP) and was created by the 2020 General Assembly as part of the Virginia Clean Economy Act. Almost three years ago, both Appalachian Power Company and Dominion Energy Virginia received permission to charge extra on their customer monthly bills to fund it.

Both companies have now filed updates with the State Corporation Commission and are seeking to adjust the amount they collect from general customers.  Dominion, which had enrolled 8,600 PIPP beneficiary accounts as of late March, is seeking to eliminate its monthly charge for a while. Appalachian, which still had zero customers enrolled by the time of its report, has applied to raise its surcharge.

Both are relatively tiny amounts so far. Just how large and how expensive the program might become over time remains anybody’s guess, but as utility costs grow so will the total amount of subsidies and surcharges. The intention is to limit a poor family’s electric bill to 10 percent of income if they use electricity for heat, and 6 percent if they use some other heating source.

So, another cost driver for the long term will be the continued push from government to eliminate the use of anything but electricity for heat. Natural gas and heating oil are squarely in the crosshairs of the Biden Administration and others who accept the climate catastrophe narrative and blame it on carbon-based fuels. Continue reading

Proposed Tax for Leave Pay Guaranteed to Grow

From tiny acorns, massive tax-fed government benefit programs grow. Case in point, the pending Virginia paid leave bureaucracy.

By Derrick Max

Sitting on Governor Glenn Youngkin’s desk is a paid family and medical leave bill that would provide eight weeks of paid leave per year for most employees in the Commonwealth. The program would pay employees 80 percent of their weekly salary up to an amount equal to 80 percent of the regional average salary for their qualified leave. Interestingly, teachers, state employees, and constitutional officers are not covered under this program — presumably, these employees already have paid leave benefits and the General Assembly did not want to tax their allies. Continue reading

Why are the Poor Still Paying for Dominion Wind?

by Steve Haner

Virginia’s new electricity bill subsidy program for customers of Dominion Energy Virginia has cleared its final hurdle at the State Corporation Commission and will begin enrolling participants in time for this coming winter. It is largely following the schedule previously outlined.

In a final order issued October 13, the Commission set the rate adjustment clause amount that will be added to Dominion customer bills at 73 cents per 1,000 kilowatt hours. For most residential customers it will add between 50 cents and a dollar per month to their bills. Continue reading

Dominion “Bill Relief” Disappears September 1

By Steve Haner

Homeowners willing to cut back power usage when Dominion Energy Virginia asks them could earn rebates of up to $28 a year. So reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch, citing yet another final order from the State Corporation Commission.

The Richmond paper is always bringing us such great news about the folks at the giant utility looking out for us. The headline in the print edition today is even more positive: “New Rebate Program Could Lower Power Bills.”

Who is actually going to provide the $28 in hard cash? Yep, Bacon’s Rebellion readers get it on the first try. Dominion will raise the rebate money given to the few by raising its cost of electricity to everybody. Even the people getting rebates will pay the surcharge. But your bill just goes up a bit — so little you won’t notice the increase starting on September 1.

You also won’t notice it because the increase in the energy efficiency program’s rate adjustment clause (a separate charge also known as a RAC or rider), is just one of several such increases, all hitting September 1.

The higher bill totals will be creeping into your email and snail mail inboxes along with all the campaign brochures about how the 2023 General Assembly provided “bill relief.” That is gone in a puff of smoke. Come September 1 Dominion customers also start paying for, or start paying more for: Continue reading

An Utter (and Videotaped) Disgrace of the Virginia General Assembly

by James C. Sherlock

Scott Johnson at the podium on Jan 17, 2023 testifying before the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions.

Whatever the Virginia Health Care Association (VHCA), the state’s nursing home lobbying organization, pays its General Counsel, Scott Johnson, it is not enough.

He has been representing them for 20 years, and he owns the General Assembly.

This is going to sound boring as I frame the background that is the subject of the hearing. But I feel I must try to explain the complexities to make what happened in the hearing understandable.

But I promise the hearing itself is not boring. There are heroes, heroines and villains.

That hearing was a thoroughgoing disgrace to the General Assembly of Virginia. Members are seen clearly to surrender their authority, their duties, and their personal dignity to an industry they are elected to oversee.

It was videotaped for posterity.

It represents the “Virginia Way.” a product of unlimited campaign donations. It is reprehensible.

The law passed through this process must be repealed in its entirety. Continue reading

Electricity Bill Caps for Poor Start in November

by Steve Haner

Beginning next winter, low- income customers of Dominion Energy Virginia or Appalachian Power Company will be eligible to have their monthly bills capped under a new state financial assistance program.

The income cut off to qualify for Virginia’s new Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) assisting low income households with their electric bills is the same as the threshold for the long-standing Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). So LIHEAP beneficiaries will likely be the first enrolled in the new program later in 2023. Continue reading

Past Time for Serious Sanctions for the Commonwealth’s Worst Nursing Homes

by James C. Sherlock

Effective May 1 of this year, Karen Shelton M.D. became Virginia’s Health Commissioner. Dr. Shelton is now the licensor and regulator of Virginia’s nursing homes.

By law, state-licensed nursing homes must comply with federal and state laws and standards. By regulation, the Health Commissioner “may impose such administrative sanctions or take such actions as are appropriate for violation of any of the standards or statutes or for abuse or neglect of persons in care.”

It is time.

I hope that she will pose a challenge to her Office of Licensure and Certification (OLC), of which I am a public admirer, that goes something like this.

Too many Virginia nursing homes are measured objectively by CMS (the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services) to be dangerous to the health and welfare of their patients through a combination of:

  • inspections that we ourselves conduct;
  • staffing measures linked to payroll data; and
  • medical quality measures from federal records.

Many have been that way for a very long time.

Current staffing far below CMS requirements seems to indicate that too many have no apparent path to improvement.

Come and see me in a couple of weeks with a list of the absolute worst of them.

And tell me why I should not shut them down to let the rest know that there are minimum standards beneath which they will not be permitted to operate in Virginia.

And one more thing.

Please let me know if there are organizations or individuals, current or recent, whose facilities have appeared regularly enough with the lowest staffing rating to indicate that understaffing may constitute a business model rather than a local exigency.

That too will not be tolerated.

We will take on those challenges here as if they are our own.

This article will identify the absolute worst of the facilities, using government records. The next will look at understaffing trends among owners. Continue reading

School Boards, Model Policies and Parental Rights in the Raising of Children

by James C. Sherlock

The Virginia Beach School Board will vote tomorrow.

The announced subject will be transgender rights in schools.

It is couched by The Virginian-Pilot as the school board defending transgender students against “unnecessarily cruel policies.  As opposed, one supposes, to necessarily cruel policies.

The local paper refers, of course, to the Youngkin administration’s “Model Policies” on the subject. Which, like their predecessors from the Northam administration, are not mandatory, so need not be debated at all.

The School Board debate is at its core constitutional.

You will note that the Youngkin Model Policies linked its constitutional interpretations to court decisions. The Northam version did not. Northam’s just asserted what the constitution meant. Must have been an oversight.

My take:

  • Families are responsible for shaping the values, beliefs, and personalities of children;
  • Government is required to protect children from abuse and neglect. But government schools are not allowed to substitute their judgements on values and beliefs for those of the families;
  • They are most certainly not permitted to define parental moral or political disagreements with school personnel as emotional abuse at home. Or as harassment of government schools or teachers;
  • And government schools, absent evidence of abuse or neglect, must never be allowed to substitute their own moral judgments for those of parents.

But that’s just me. Not a lawyer. Continue reading

How To Really, Really Tick Off Fairfax Taxpayers

Screen shot from WJLA-7 April 4 report.

People don’t understand!  These political leadership jobs are hard! It is a great sacrifice to serve, and it is only fair that the taxpayers contribute to the comfort and convenience of those of us working so hard for their better future.  They can be so ungrateful….

Did that go through Fairfax Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay’s mind as he watched local WJLA-7 news kick him around like a rag doll yesterday for using a county car on personal business and, worse, political business? Or was it what should have gone through his mind:  How could I be so dumb and greedy and assume nobody would notice or care?

This is not a new story, because it happens often and gets ratted out all the time.  This is not a partisan story, because this behavior crosses all lines. Lack of electoral competition does contribute to this way of thinking. This may not be a fatal blow for Democrat McKay, who as board chairman recently raised his pay from $100,000 to $138,000 per year (as the televised report helpfully reminds us.)

No, this is a “when will they ever learn” story. People who don’t get the privilege of transportation with the entire bill paid by involuntary tax levies, people who must pay the hated car taxes and registration fees and fuel bills on their cars, tend to get irritated when they find out politicians (or any government employees) use public cars for tons of daily private business.

Someone please forward this to the Internal Revenue Service. I know the folks at the Virginia Department of Taxation, and they can check to see if McKay’s valuable perk was declared for tax purposes. It is very much supposed to be. Continue reading

Arlington CPS Seizes Baby Girl Over Tylenol

by Asra Q. Nomani and Debra Tisler

Late Wednesday afternoon, in Courtroom 4B of Arlington County’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Sean Jackson beamed widely as a judge granted him and his parents, Carlos Makle and Kim Jackson-Makle, joint custody of Sean’s baby girl, Amoria, instead of relegating her to foster care or instability with a mother struggling with drug addiction.

Kim later said, “Hallelujah,” thinking the nightmare they had been living for over a year with the County’s inept Division of Child Protective Services was finally over. But it was just about to begin all over again. Arlington County’s Child Protective Services was about to dispatch a social worker to an apartment in Arlington to seize Amoria’s second cousin, London, also a cute baby girl, from her mother, Paris Adams.

Why?

Over an alleged missed dosage of Tylenol Wednesday morning that the baby wasn’t even required to get, per doctor’s orders, but was rather prescribed “as needed.” With so much written in the news about public policy, legislation and politics, this story is disturbing because of the sheer inhumanity of bureaucrats operating with complete disregard for actual child welfare or a mother’s heartache.

First, a rewind.
Continue reading

Feeding Petersburg

Garrison Coward oversees Gov. Youngkin’s Partnership for Petersburg initiative – photo contributed to the Progress-Index

by James C. Sherlock

I have written in this space many times about the struggles of Petersburg.

Petersburg is blessed in one way.

The Progress-Index’s Bill Atkinson and Joyce Chu may be the best pair of local news reporters working in Virginia.

Mr. Atkinson, in a series of reports, has detailed the continuing struggles of that city to get a grocery store downtown.

The big grocers surround the center of the city in more prosperous, safer areas but have not entered there.

Food Markets in Petersburg courtesy of Bing Maps

It is no secret why. Poverty and crime do not attract retailers vulnerable to shoplifting and worse. And Petersburg is among the poorest and most crime-ridden in Virginia.

A recent Petersburg solicitation for interest in building a grocery store downtown drew no bidders.

The Governor has a broad Partnership for Petersburg initiative to help Petersburg help itself  It is run by Garrison Coward, an external-affairs senior advisor to Gov. Youngkin.

He reports that the Governor is “hell-bent” on seeing a grocery store built there.

I will offer an idea. Continue reading

Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Virginia Public Schools – Dangerous Children’s Services Act Changes Proposed

Credit JAMA Pediatrics, April 6, 2020

by James C. Sherlock

One of the key elements of state and local efforts to support children with behavioral health, educational disabilities, and other challenges is the Children’s Services Act (CSA) (the Act).

In education, its primary role has been paying for placement of children and youth with educational disabilities into private special education schools (PSES).

CSA funds support those students whose educations are judged by the public schools themselves to be too demanding for them to accommodate.

The local CSA Community Policy and Management Teams, appointed by the governing body of the participating local political subdivision, send their own children to those private schools.

I will describe Virginia’s network of PSESs in a follow-on article.

Changes proposed. In a 2020 report, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) had found a long list of seemingly disqualifying flaws in public school special education that would prevent them from accepting students with more severe disabilities than the ones they already try to serve.

Yet there is a movement to remove some severely troubled kids from PSESs back into public schools that have already admitted that they cannot properly serve them.

JLARC, in a disturbingly superficial report in that same year, recommended CSA money be taken away from PSESs and made available to public schools, which is not currently permitted under law.

And that all of the then-fungible CSA school money be administered by the Department of Education, not the Department of Health and Human Resources.

This recommendation was made in the face of the fact that JLARC, in both 2020 reports, admitted the public schools are not equipped to handle these children, much less for the average of 271 days a year they attend PSESs.

So some combination of progressive ed-school dogma, as yet undefined fairy dust and widely non-existent qualified mental health providers and trained special ed teachers are apparently to be sprinkled on the public schools to transform them to be ready to accept children whom they have already referred out to PSESs.

Most of the proposed changes are dangerous, dogmatic and thinly researched nonsense. Continue reading

Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Virginia Public Schools – Big Complications and Major Changes

Credit JAMA Pediatrics, April 6, 2020

by James C. Sherlock

Rebecca Aman, a member of the Newport News School Board, is frustrated. She told me in an interview that:

Without sufficient discipline and access to clinical mental health services, behavioral intervention does not work to make schools safer and healthier.

She believes that Newport News schools need to improve both discipline and the effectiveness of behavioral interventions.

She is absolutely right.

But school-based mental health services offer different, very complex and rapidly changing challenges.

The profession of psychology has recognized that the one-on-one clinical treatment model is permanently out of reach for the broad communities needing assistance because the supply of qualified professionals cannot now and will never meet the demand.

So the delivery model is in the midst of profound change.

Three key changes being pursued are

  • a far bigger emphasis on prevention, much of it to be delivered by school staff;
  • better diagnosis; and
  • “school based” (their term) group treatments.

Which raises at least three questions:

  • Are the pediatric mental health delivery models changing so much that the schools are “shooting behind the rabbit” in the hunt for more services?
  • What does the profession of psychology mean when it describes massively expanded “school-based” services? The schools and parents better find out.
  • Should schools even be in the hunt for more in-school services? I say no. They are already trying to do too much.

Continue reading

Virginia Community Schools Redefined – Part 2 – Stop Trying to Provide Mental Health Services in School

by James C. Sherlock

In Part 1 of this series I described the current Virginia Community School Framework (the Framework) and found it not only lacking, but counter-productive.

Its basic flaw is that it assumes all services to school children will be provided in the schools by school employees, including mental health services.

When you start there, you get nowhere very expensively, less competently, and with considerably more danger in the case of mental health than if the schools were to partner with other government and non-profit services.

This part of the series will deal with child and adolescent mental health services exclusively.

Public mental health, intellectual disability and substance abuse services for children and adolescents are funded by governments at every level. For the federal view of the system of care, see here.

In Virginia, those services are organized, overseen and funded through a state and local agency system.

  • The state agency is the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) in the Secretariat of Health and Human Resources. The Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) (Medicaid) plays a funding and patient management role as well;
  • Local agencies funded and overseen by DBHDS are the Community Services Boards (CSB’s) throughout the state.

Some schools and school systems seem to operate on a different planet from their local CSB’s. Indeed, the Framework mentions them only reluctantly and in passing.

The ed school establishment clearly wants to handle child and adolescent mental health problems in-house, with tragic results. They need to stop it now.

There is absolutely no need to wait. Continue reading

Virginia Community Schools Redefined – Hubs for Government and Not-for-Profit Services in Inner Cities – Part 1 – the Current Framework

by James C. Sherlock

I believe a major approach to address both education and health care in Virginia’s inner cities is available if we will define it right and use it right.

Community schools.

One issue. Virginia’s official version of community schools, the Virginia Community School Framework, (the Framework) is fatally flawed.

The approach successful elsewhere brings government professional healthcare and social services and not-for-profit healthcare assets simultaneously to the schools and to the surrounding communities at a location centered around existing schools.

That model is a government and private not-for-profit services hub centered around schools in communities that need a lot of both. Lots of other goals fall into place and efficiencies are realized for both the community and the service providers if that is the approach.

That is not what Virginia has done in its 2019 Framework.

The rest of government and the not-for-profit sector are ignored and Virginia public schools are designed there to be increasingly responsible for things that they are not competent to do.

To see why, we only need to review the lists of persons who made up both the Advisory Committee and the Additional Contributors. Full of Ed.Ds and Ph.D’s in education, there was not a single person on either list with a job or career outside the field of education. Continue reading