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Northam commits funds to public safety

Governor Ralph Northam recently announced Virginia plans to direct more than $114 million in federal and state funding to support public safety initiatives across the commonwealth.

The governor’s proposal includes $62 million in hazard pay and compensation for public safety officials, $35 million to address COVID-19 in correctional facilities and $17 million for crime reduction and prevention programs and services for victims of crime.

“We are grateful for Virginia’s public safety officials who have worked overtime throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Northam said. “This critical investment will give us more resources to recruit and retain law enforcement and correctional officers, bolster our efforts to reduce gun violence and help ensure the safety of families and communities across the commonwealth.”

Ralph Northam

The proposed investment includes state funding as well as federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The governor’s plan provides hazard pay for local and state law enforcement and correctional officers who served during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as funding for recruitment and retention. The governor’s plan includes $20 million for Virginia State Police, $10 million for the Department of Corrections, and $11 million to address critical staffing shortages at local and regional jails and sheriff’s departments. This also includes compensation for medical contractors, cafeteria and janitorial workers and other support staff. The two-year budget that Governor Northam submits in December will include an additional $20 million to address pay scale compression for the Virginia State Police.

“The last year and a half has been tough on everyone, and this investment in public safety will provide much needed relief to local and state law enforcement agencies and help localities to continue supporting victims of domestic and gun violence,” Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran said. “This funding is in recognition of the critical jobs they perform.”

“Recruitment and pay compression issues have led to an increasing number of vacancies at State Police over the past several years — these issues were only magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wayne Huggins, Executive Director of the Virginia State Police Association (VSPA) said. “VSPA is encouraged that this issue is being addressed in an ongoing and comprehensive manner. We appreciate the governor’s support and commitment.”

This investment also includes $35 million to address COVID-19 within facilities operated by the Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Justice. Funding will allow for rate increases for medical contractors and staff positions to support COVID-19 management. It will also provide testing supplies, personal protective equipment, ventilation modifications in correctional facilities, quarantine spaces and tents to enable outdoor visitation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the demand for domestic violence and sexual assault programming and support services for crime victims in the commonwealth. Since 2019, the number of individuals seeking shelter and contacts to the Virginia Statewide Hotline has risen significantly. The funding proposal includes $12.2 million in new resources for victims of crime and survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, elder abuse and child abuse. An additional $1 million will be dedicated to the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Victim Fund, which will provide funding for prosecution and victim support.

The funding proposal designates $2.5 million for gun violence reduction initiatives within the Office of the Attorney General and more than $500,000 for the Department of Forensic Science to increase capacity to analyze firearms evidence. An additional $800,000 was designated for the Department of Criminal Justice Services, which will administer a one-time grant to the City of Hampton to support an employment program for court-involved youth and adults facing barriers to employment, expand services for those participating in or at risk of participating in gun violence and provide counseling or mental health services for those exposed to violence. These programs will work in conjunction with the governor’s proposal to invest ARP funds in community-based services and substance abuse treatment.