Your Turn — Prepare for hurricane season

Published 12:30 pm Friday, June 10, 2022

The Virginia House and Senate passed two budget bills and sent the budget to the governor last Wednesday, setting the stage for final consideration of any proposed amendments later this month. I voted yes on both budget bills.

The two budgets — one for the fiscal year that ends June 30 and another for the two fiscal years that begin July 1 — have been delivered to Gov. Glenn Youngkin. He will have seven days to propose amendments or veto provisions. The details of the proposed agreement can be viewed at https:// budget.lis.virginia.gov/.

With billions upon billions in unanticipated tax revenue, it was clear that the commonwealth has been overtaxing its citizens. The Republican majority made tax relief one of our top priorities, and working with Gov. Youngkin, we’re now able to deliver on most of these efforts.

This budget provides almost $4 billion in tax relief to Virginians when they need it most. An average family of four will see annual savings of more than $1,100 under this budget. It greatly increases the standard deduction from Virginia’s income taxes, with a sunset in 2026 — going from $4,500 to $8,000 for single filers and from $9,000 to $16,000 for joint filers.

It provides a refundable earned income tax credit at 15% of the federal level, repeals the state share of the grocery tax, lowering bills by 1.5%, provides a rebate for $250 per person, $500 per couple. It also exempts the first $40,000 of veteran retirement pay from tax, phased in over four years, and ends the accelerated sales tax gimmick that penalized retailers for years. Virginia’s employers’ unemployment insurance taxes will not go up, as the budget replenishes the unemployment trust fund.

Last Thursday, Gov. Youngkin ceremonially signed legislation to expand health care coverage options for small businesses. House Bill 884 and Senate Bill 195 permit the creation of benefits consortiums for small businesses in Virginia. Benefits consortiums allow small businesses to come together as a single large pool to offer their employees comprehensive and affordable group health care coverage. These bills will drastically improve the ability for Virginia’s small businesses to share risk, streamline administration, and reduce costs of coverage.

This year’s hurricane season began on June 1. Gov. Youngkin is urging Virginians to prepare now for this year’s hurricane season, which lasts through Nov. 30. Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are predicting another above-average hurricane season this year with a likely range of 14 to 21 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which six to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including three to six major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provided these ranges with a 70% confidence.

Take the time now to review your insurance policy, secure your property and create a plan that includes arrangements for your pets or those that may need extra assistance. Below are a few critical steps to ensure you and your family’s safety.

Know your zone. Evacuation may become necessary depending on the track and severity of the storm. Review Virginia’s evacuation zones at KnowYourZoneVA.org. Users can enter their physical address in the search bar of the website to view and confirm their designated evacuation zone.

Complete a family communication plan. Prepare for how you will assemble and communicate with your family and loved ones. Identify meeting locations and anticipate where you will go. Federal Emergency Management Agency guidance on family communications plans is available at https:// www.ready.gov/sites/default/ files/2021-04/family-emergency-communication-plan.pdf.

Check your insurance coverage. Remember, there may be a waiting period (typically 30 days) for a flood insurance policy to become effective and be aware that not all storm-related losses, such as flooding, are covered under traditional policies. Now is the time to review your coverage and contact your insurance agent for any changes. If you are not insured against floods, talk to your insurance agent or visit floodsmart.gov. If you are a renter, now is the time to ensure you have adequate coverage to protect your belongings.

Make an emergency kit. Assemble an emergency kit that includes nonperishable food, water, medication, sanitary supplies, radios, extra batteries, and important documents. Learn more about building an emergency supply kit at https://www.ready.gov/kit.

Stay informed. Identify where to go for trusted sources of information during emergencies. Check with your local emergency management office to sign up for alerts that go directly to your phone or email. Be sure to monitor local news for watches and warnings in your area and follow directions of local officials. Power outages are always a concern during weather events — make sure you have a battery-operated radio available so you can still receive life-saving alerts.

There are many resources available to assist with hurricane planning efforts. Learn more about preparing your business, your family, and your property against hurricane threats (and other disasters) at vaemergency.gov/prepare and ready.gov/hurricanes.

For comprehensive information on preparedness, response, and recovery activities, please review the Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Guide, which not only includes evacuation information, but also highlights actions to take in the event of tropical weather.

DEL. C. MATTHEW FARISS represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates.