Northam Says Virginia Has Made “Significant Progress” in Testing, But State Will Be Short $1 Billion

(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

By Elle Meyers
May 15, 2020

Gov. Ralph Northam said Virginia has made “significant progress” testing residents since the beginning of the pandemic, and gave an overview of the state’s finances in a press conference Friday.

“It’s important to understand that we are continuing to make significant progress on our testing,” Northam said. He explained that by April 21 the commonwealth has 58 testing sites up and running, “three weeks later, as of May 14 we have 215 public testing sites and we have 52 more that are lined up,” he said. 

Testing sites in the commonwealth are located at hospitals, health centers, pharmacies and health departments. Northam explained that there are additional plans in the works to start testing at 12 free clinics and 75 qualified health centers for people who are uninsured or have limited access to healthcare.

Northam and the state Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne also gave an overview of Virginia’s finances which have taken a hit since the pandemic began. 

“Yesterday we announced the first monthly revenue report in which we really see the impact of this situation is having on our economy. For April, Virginia’s revenue collections were down 26 percent,” Northam said. “That is about seven hundred million dollars less than we would normally collect.”

Northam’s office predicts that Virginia will see a one billion dollar loss by the end of June.

Although the state’s finances have taken a hard hit in the last couple of months Layne noted that the economy in Virginia has held up well. 

“We still have quite a few businesses operating and paying their employees, I think a lot of that has to do with the strength of the economy,” Layne said. 

He went on to explain that a significant portion of Virginia’s economy is based on defense contracts. 

“Those shipyards have remained open, certainly the federal government has remained open. We have a lot of employees of the federal government that are here,” he said. “So while we have felt the impact we did not see a total shutdown of economic activity.”

Layne went on to note that officials are seeing a change in buying trends as people adapt to restrictions. For instance, the revenues the state collects from sales taxes have shifted to come from online sales. Instead of seeing revenues from restaurants and the entertainment industry that revenue has been coming from the sales tax collected at grocery stores.

“Even though economic activity was impacted by the coronavirus and the shutdown of businesses, economic activity continues on in the commonwealth,” Layne said. “I do expect that to impact us the next couple months or into the future. But again, our strong base will help us mitigate this.” 

Northam is expected to make an announcement on whether or not he plans to open Virginia beaches in time for Memorial Day weekend on Monday.

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