Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is working to end fines and fees and develop a reimbursement process for businesses who were “unjustly” subjected to COVID-19 pandemic shutdown violations.
The GOP governor issued an executive order Tuesday rolling back strict COVID enforcement policies enacted by the previous Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam. Youngkin, a political newcomer, flipped a typically blue state red in 2021 by running on pro-parent and anti-Biden administration policies, including pandemic response.
The new order will direct his state government agencies to report the fines and fees businesses throughout the state were forced to pay during the shutdown. The governor also tapped the state finance secretary to create a reimbursement procedure for penalized businesses.
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Youngkin said further enforcement action against businesses will be halted, and that more information about the COVID fine rollback would be detailed in the budget Youngkin plans to release on Dec. 15.
“The fact that businesses are still dealing with COVID-19 related penalties and fines is infuriating,” Youngkin said in a statement announcing the move. “Livelihoods are on the line. In the previous administration, we saw our government shut down businesses, close our schools, and separate us from each other. While we can’t undo the damage done during the Northam administration, we are taking action going forward to end COVID-era draconian overreach.”
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“I look forward to working with the General Assembly to address this, forgive COVID fines and fees and restore licenses that were unjustly suspended,” he said.
The anticipated budget language will not apply to “instances where the violation was in relation to practices, guidelines, rules or operating procedures intended to protect the health and safety of individuals, patients, residents, and staff of hospitals, nursing homes, certified nursing facilities, hospices, or assisted living facilities,” according to the governor’s office.
The governor’s move comes after President Biden declared the pandemic “over” in September.
“The pandemic is over,” Biden said in a CBS interview. “We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. It’s – but the pandemic is over.”
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Congress is working to include language within the annual defense policy bill that repeals the coronavirus vaccine mandate for U.S. service members.