In the News

Economy: Initial unemployment claims down
State News: Low-interest loans available for dam rehab
State News: Governor announces state-employee health initiative
Event: Lifestyle seminar at local church 


Economy: Initial unemployment claims down

In the week ending June 6, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 601,000, a decrease of 24,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 625,000. The four-week moving average was 621,750, a decrease of 10,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 632,250.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 5.1 percent for the week ending May 30, unchanged from the prior week’s revised rate of 5.1 percent.

The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending May 30 was 6,816,000, an increase of 59,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 6,757,000. The four-week moving average was 6,750,500, an increase of 57,250 from the preceding week’s revised average of 6,693,250.

The fiscal year-to-date average for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment for all programs is 5.238 million.


State News: Low-interest loans available for dam rehab

The Dam Safety, Flood Prevention and Protection Assistance Fund from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has $2 million in low interest loans available to local governments and private dam owners for dam rehabilitation, mapping, flood hazard planning and dam related mitigation activities. Applications will be accepted through Aug. 14, 2009. Approximately $25,000 in dam related grants are also available. DCR administers the fund along with the Virginia Resources Authority.

“This state loan and grant program is available to help dam owners repair and upgrade their dams to meet dam safety requirements,” said DCR director Joseph H. Maroon.

There are four categories of loans available. Local governments, private companies or individuals owning high and significant hazard dams can apply for money for repairs needed to bring dams into compliance with the state’s dam safety regulations. Local governments are also eligible for loans to set up their own low interest loan programs for privately-owned high and significant hazard dams in their localities. Local governments can also apply for loans to assist with the assessment of local flood risks, including developing new floodplain boundary information or to supplement existing floodplain studies or developing flood prevention and mitigation strategies.

The final category allows local governments to apply for loans to help fund flood prevention and mitigation projects, including the construction of floodwalls, the relocation of structures, and the installation of flood warning and response systems.

The fund also provides $25,000 in matching grants to eligible dam owners for dam break inundation zone mapping and incremental damage analysis. The funding for grants, which do not need to be paid back, comes from interest earned through the management of the Fund.

Regulated dams are generally twenty-five feet or higher with an impoundment of fifteen acre-feet or greater and dams six feet or higher with an impoundment of fifty acre-feet or greater. High hazard dams are those that would cause a probable loss of life or serious economic damage should a failure occur, while the failure of a significant hazard dam may cause loss of life or appreciable economic damage.

All applications will be competitively scored. All qualifying applicants must undergo an underwriting analysis by the VRA prior to final approval.

Information on the this program, including a copy of the current loan and grant manual with application forms, can be found on the DCR website at:

You can also call 804.786.1712 and press “5” for Dam Safety and Floodplain Management or write: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, ATTN: Dam Safety, Flood Prevention and Protection Assistance Fund, 203 Governor Street, Suite 206, Richmond, Va. 23219.


State News: Governor announces state-employee health initiative

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine today announced the creation of COVA Connect, a public-private partnership between Optima Health and the Commonwealth of Virginia to implement the state’s vision for comprehensive healthcare management. Slated to begin July 1, 2009 the regional pilot project will serve approximately 17,000 people—8,300 state employees and their family members—in seven localities in Hampton Roads. The initiative is designed to lower operating costs, reduce transaction time for customers, and improve customer satisfaction, understanding, and health of the Virginia state workforce. The regional pilot project will also use technology to coordinate data on participants’ health, allowing them to make informed medical decisions and allowing the early detection of risk-factors for disease.

“If we’re going to tackle comprehensive health care reform in this country, we also have to address health,” said Gov. Kaine. “By improving coordination between health care providers and facilitating consistent case management, we can identify preventive care opportunities and ensure better health outcomes for participants.”

State employees in Hampton, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Poquoson will participate in the pilot initiative, which is designed to lower operating costs and reduce transaction time for customers while promoting overall customer satisfaction, understanding, and health. Program participants will be asked to complete a confidential Personal Health Profile featuring detailed questions about their personal health. These answers will allow for early identification of risk factors, such as smoking or obesity. Once risk factors are identified, participants will have the opportunity to meet with a Health Coach as needed for one year, providing the patient with targeted advice and plans to reduce their risk factors for disease and live a healthier lifestyle.

COVA Connect will also give state employees access to the programs and services offered by Optima Health at no additional cost. A wide array of programs are available, including those on making smarter choices with food, quitting smoking, encouraging heart health, and exercises tailored to people capable of moderate physical activity.

The state is also leveraging its volume of participants to obtain the best rates for services. COVA Connect will also increase transparency of healthcare plans, so all parties know exactly what their premiums are purchasing. Negotiating for the “unbundling” of plans will allow for the purchase of only the coverage needed.

The goal of COVA Connect is not only to create healthier employees and reduce absenteeism, but also to reduce overall health care costs through early detection of serious illness and disease, thereby reducing the need to use insurance. Periodic evaluations will occur to assess participation in healthy lifestyle programs, and the usage of patient’s insurance. Data collected can then be benchmarked and compared to other programs across the state, and if proven effective, comprehensive healthcare management can be deployed across the state.

Five state agencies across multiple Cabinet Secretariats examined 10 submitted proposals, and Optima Health of Virginia Beach was awarded a multi-year contract to operate the regional demonstration project. COVA Connect is being developed under a program authorized by the General Assembly to increase efficiency in government through public-private partnerships. It also incorporates the goals Gov. Kaine set out in Executive Order 42 which encourages transparency and accountability in healthcare.

“Optima Health is excited to partner with the Commonwealth in an effort to improve the health of its employees through this pilot project and looks forward to building lasting relationships with our fellow Virginians,” said Michael M. Dudley, Optima Health’s President & CEO.

The Commonwealth’s comprehensive care management vision which the pilot will test “is truly groundbreaking,” said Joe Marlowe, a senior vice president of Aon Consulting, which serves as the actuary for the state health benefits plan. “[I]t will mark [the Commonwealth] as a leader among state employee medical plans and private industry.”


Event: Lifestyle seminar at local church

This Sunday, June 14, and every other Sunday in June, from 4-6 p.m., a LifeStyle Matters Simple Solutions Seminar is open to the public at the Staunton Seventh-day Adventist Church Fellowship Hall, 1000 N. Coalter St.

The sessions will provide information on how simple lifestyle choices can help you lose unwanted pounds, reduce your disease risk, have more energy, fight depression, sleep better, think more quickly and clearly, and increase your productivity.

The sessions are free to the public; the workbook is $20 (optional).

For more info or to pre-register, call 540.337.6981.

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