Emmett Hanger: Focusing on good news in Virginia
If you know me at all, I don’t typically go negative. I am an excessively “glass half-full” type of person. But let’s face it, we all, to some extent more or less, have had a year and a half now of some seriously crazy, scary and trying times. Today I offer several cheers and jeers types of comments to kind of set the table of where we should be heading in Virginia.
A big, genuine heartfelt word of thanks and compliment to our community hospital Augusta Health for organizing and running a top notch vaccine clinic for this area. If you still need a vaccine and live, work or go to school anywhere in VA and are 12 or older you can sign up for an appointment at vaccinate.augustahealth.com. Vaccines are important to getting us all back to a more normal business and family life. Our economy and our overall health are dependent on reaching herd immunity and vaccines are key! Health departments across Virginia are offering vaccines and some opportunities are even transferring to doctors’ offices and many retailers so follow-up and get the shots. A huge thank you to all our frontline healthcare providers!
The Virginia Employment Commission is in need of a good overhaul and upgrade. Yes, though they have experienced record unemployment numbers and faced updating technology and standing up new software to accommodate the massive influx of claims and the large surge of federal dollars to expand benefits, they have still not gotten their act together fully. My office and other legislators have been pushing for improvements via their Commissioner’s office and the Governor’s office. The VEC needs to continue to expedite hearings and do better at the customer service level to provide basic information to those awaiting action on claims. VEC has a dedicated workforce of state employees but the system and the circumstances have handicapped their ability to be efficient during this period. Call volumes remain extremely high and please be aware not everyone qualifies for benefits. There are now four new telephone numbers with specific options, and we will continue to work on behalf of constituents.
- 1-866-835-6058: This a new number to file Cares Act and PUA claims.
- 1-866-373-6915: This is a new number if the customer needs language assistance for languages other than English or Spanish.
- 1-800-897-5630: This is the number for the Voice Response System for weekly claims and claims updates.
- 1-866-832-2363: This is the number to use to file a new claim, add a claim, reopen a claim, and inquire about a claim.
Support your local businesses and restaurants. As more people get vaccinated and we thankfully start to return to our more usual routines, know that our economy is still very much a tenuous concern. Lots of businesses are hiring and unfortunately people are not returning to work to support operations. Some people are making lifestyle changes (and that includes job changes) and some unfortunately are choosing to play out unemployment benefits as long as possible but that will dry up. Some businesses are still operating at reduced capacities due to COVID restrictions, but some are just struggling to get employees to show up to work, so do what you can to support your neighborhood businesses. Be patient, be kind and remember our local businesses and restaurants are integral to our communities and the lifestyle that we love in the Commonwealth.
Party affiliation is an integral part of our system of representative government, but most of us would admit our politics have become extremely polarized and are inhibiting our ability to enact policy and govern appropriately at the state and federal level. There are lots of reasons perhaps, including the influence of money; the influence of liberal and conservative media which make a fortune twisting the facts to their spin and make us mad; and of course, we have to admit there has been a general decline in civility, over-all, not just in politics. I will have lots more to say about this subject at a later time, but for now I will just say that the current norm is unacceptable. Regardless of who you support (person or party) be sure you take your responsibility as a voter seriously and learn about the candidates and their positions. Know that your power is your voice at the voting booth but it is also your responsibility not to spread unverified information or misinformation on issues or candidates. As Thomas Jefferson once said, and it remains true today, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
Emmett Hanger represents the 24th District in the Virginia Senate.