Gov. Ralph Northam announced that his first budget proposal for American Rescue Plan funding invests $353 million to boost recovery among Virginia’s small businesses and industries hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, the Governor and General Assembly leaders released a joint statement outlining shared priorities for the $4.3 billion in federal funds available to the Commonwealth from the American Rescue Plan.
Northam and others discussed his proposed $250 million investment in the Rebuild VA economic recovery fund, $50 million for Virginia Tourism Corporation initiatives, and $53 million for other small business including the Industrial Revitalization Fund and Virginia Main Street program during an event at Neptune’s Park on the Virginia Beach oceanfront.
“Virginia is roaring back stronger than we could have imagined one year ago, but small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and they need additional support to get back on their feet,” said Northam. “With the American Rescue Plan, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild from the impacts of the pandemic, revitalize our communities, and invest in our shared prosperity. That’s why I am proposing $353 million to bolster the Commonwealth’s successful recovery initiatives that target our hard-hit tourism and hospitality sectors, main streets, small businesses, and nonprofits.”
Since launching in August 2020, the Rebuild VA economic recovery fund has awarded $120 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to more than 3,000 small businesses and nonprofits. Northam and the General Assembly agreed to fund Rebuild VA with an additional $25 million in March to fulfill many of the pending applications. The Governor is proposing a new $250 million investment in Rebuild VA to meet the ongoing demand for the program and provide grants to additional small businesses.
“There are so many wonderful examples of businesses pivoting and communities coming together to support one another over the past 16 months,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “These investments will provide critical funding for important programs that work in harmony to strengthen our downtowns and propel our small businesses back to prosperity.”
Travel and hospitality have long been an impactful revenue generator for the Commonwealth, and from March 2020 to April 2021, Virginia lost an estimated $14.5 billion in total tourism spending. Northam is proposing a $50 million investment to help the tourism industry recover and restore additional economic activity across the Commonwealth. The Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) will create the Virginia Tourism Recovery Program to deliver funding to all 114 destination marketing organizations throughout the Commonwealth. This funding will also allow VTC to boost its sports and meeting marketing programs, which experienced significant revenue loss during the pandemic, and extend its broadcast and digital marketing into tier 2 and 3 media markets in Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Chicago and digital advertising to an additional 29 markets east of the Mississippi River.
Northam also is proposing $53 million for the Industrial Revitalization Fund and the Virginia Main Street program. The Industrial Revitalization Fund helps jumpstart industrial projects through a collaborative approach with local governments and assistance with site identification, location preparation, and the transformation of derelict structures to increase the number of shovel-ready projects. The funding will also support Virginia Main Street’s Technical Assistance Grant program, which has proven to be a successful tool for revitalizing small towns. This increased investment will be focused on providing support for minority and immigrant communities, as well as woman- and minority-owned businesses.