Resources For Our Community

Ian Price

1 2 3 51

Photo: Ken Cuccinelli Twitter

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says that acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli – a former Virginia Attorney General – violated their oaths of office when they barred his state’s residents from participating in a program that allows U.S. travelers quicker passage through borders and airport lines. He notes that this occurred during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Cuomo says this happened after New York passed a law curtailing cooperation with federal immigration enforcement:

07-27 Cuomo Bite 1-WEB

Wolf says New York continues to maintain provisions that undermine the security of the American people and purport to criminalize information sharing between law enforcement entities.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The head of a Virginia agency that has come under scrutiny for its handling of unemployment benefits countered criticism from dozens of Democratic lawmakers, saying that “while there is room for improvement,” her staff has performed “admirably” during unprecedented times.

Virginia Employment Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess responded late Thursday to a letter sent earlier in the day by 34 House members and nine state senators that described a flood of complaints from constituents about problems with unemployment benefits and communication with the agency.

“We appreciate and share your concern for those Virginians who have reported difficulties in obtaining benefits and in reaching a member of the Commission staff,” she wrote in her letter.

But Hess defended the commission’s response to the economic fallout caused by the new coronavirus and measures intended to slow its spread, outlining some of the extraordinary demands it has faced.

In the past four months, VEC staff have averaged more than 13,000 hours of overtime a month, she wrote. The agency also had to work to increase staff in the unemployment insurance division, which had been cut by more than 40% since 2011 during record low unemployment, she said.

Call center staff answered an average of 28,000 calls per week in June and are now capable of answering 60,000 per week, she wrote.

“While there is room for improvement, the professional staff at VEC has worked admirably under exceedingly difficult circumstances,” she wrote.

In their letter, the lawmakers asked that the agency make the establishment of an online portal a top priority so that employers can provide the required information in a timely manner.

Hess responded that while the VEC has had a portal in operation for years, the General Assembly passed legislation this year that delayed mandatory employer participation until January 2021.

The lawmakers also called for the prioritization of a VEC review by the General Assembly’s watchdog agency. A study had been ordered in 2017. Hess responded that “it is important to remember that the General Assembly directed the (Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission) to prioritize studies on gaming and casinos ahead of the VEC review.”

Hess said she was willing to work with lawmakers to find ways to streamline the existing system.

“We stand ready to work with you and other legislators to deal with these complex issues affecting workers and businesses across the Commonwealth, and look forward to engaging in future conversations,” she wrote.

Separately, the commission reported Friday that Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate improved in June, falling 0.6 percentage points to 8.4%. That’s 5.6 percentage points higher than the same time last year.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remains below the national rate, which fell to 11.1%.

The largest job gain during June occurred in leisure and hospitality, the VEC said.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s state-owned liquor stores say they won’t let anyone not wearing a mask into their stores starting Monday as part of an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority will have greeters at the front of stores to prevent people without masks from entering and to offer curbside pickup options.

The agency already requires masks be worn in stores but has not previously denied entry to people without them.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has issued a mandate that masks be worn in all types of stores and recently asked business owners to be more aggressive in denying service to people who refuse to wear them.

Former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman (left), U.S. Attorney General William Barr (right

The former top prosecutor in New York is reportedly testifying tomorrow before the House Judiciary Committee after he was fired by President Trump while reportedly investigating associates of the President. WLNI’s Ian Price spoke about it with a former U.S Attorney in our area:

07-08 Fishwick Berman WRAP

1 2 3 51