The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine in our commonwealth has elicited a long-awaited sigh of relief from most Virginians. But a vaccine — even one that’s 95% effective — can’t address the economic devastation this pandemic has caused for residents such as those who are in Richmond.
It is undeniable that the effects of 2020 are following us into 2021 and beyond. Business closures and scalebacks lead to unemployment, which leads to financial hardship, which leads to eviction, which leads to homelessness. Oftentimes, it falls on our local governments to interrupt this terrible spiral — a monumental responsibility for perennially underfunded, undersupported municipalities.
To empower both municipalities and the residents who rely on them, the governor and state lawmakers must extend the COVID-19 Relief Fund during the upcoming legislative session.
The fund, created this past spring, distributes money collected through the taxation of skill game machines to state agencies, municipalities and small businesses. Frankly, it has proven a vital source of support as municipalities like Richmond attempt to provide a financial buffer for residents in crisis.
Richmond will receive $800,000 from the state fund this fiscal year. In only six months of existence, the game terminals generated about $68 million. At this rate, the state and its localities will receive an estimated $140 million by the end of June.