Public Comments for 08/24/2020 Appropriations
Last Name: Faruk Organization: Families Forward Virginia Locality: Richmond

My name is Ali Faruk and I am the Policy Director of Families Forward Virginia. I am writing to support Del. Guzman's budget amendment expanding health care access to pregnant women in the Commonwealth. Families Forward Virginia, working with parents and their children, provides Home Visiting Programs, Family Support and Education, Professional Development, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Programs, Advocacy, Public Awareness/Public Education. Employing a team of 20 professionals and supported by 50 local affiliated organizations and programs. Currently Families Forward VA and our home visiting partners serve just under 10,000 families in Virginia every year. We often begin serving our families during the prenatal period and continue with them until their child is five years old. During this journey we see how critical it is that women have health coverage during this time. Expanding the FAMIS Moms program to more women in Virginia doesn't just mean healthier moms, it means healthier babies and healthier families. I urge all members of the General Assembly to support this budget amendment.

Last Name: Muhammad Organization: Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy Locality: Prince William County

The Virginia Interfaith Center supports this budget amendment. I spearhead our health equity program, Health Care Hope. Since the fall of 2018 after Medicaid expansion passed, I have organized Medicaid application assistance events throughout the Commonwealth. I have been heartbroken when screening applicants and having to tell pregnant women that they do not qualify simply because of their immigration status. Last fall, I worked with the Governor’s Office to co-host and organize the maternity health listening session held in Prince William County where I reside as part of Office of Health and Human Resources national tour. I sat on the panel along with Del. Guzman and others who are championing maternal health in my community. Interrupting the moderator as she made her closing remarks for the discussion, Del. Guzman passionately raised the point that we cannot fully address reversing the Commonwealth’s rising number of pregnancy-related deaths for women of color if we do not find a way to provide prenatal care for undocumented women. I whispered to her that there is a way. I am honored to have worked with her to bring this vital policy solution for your vote of support today. It is a matter of life and death. You can save women's lives. COVID has raised the stakes and made pregnancy more precarious for immigrant expectant mothers who cannot access essential prenatal care. You have before you the opportunity to erase the margins that reinforce their vulnerability. I urge you to pass this amendment.

Last Name: Scholl Organization: Progress Virginia Locality: Earlysville

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, We urge you to support HB5103 to ensure voters have the options they need in order to vote safely and securely in this election. No one should have to choose between their health and their vote and policymakers don't have to choose either. We can protect public health and the integrity of our elections by making sure voting this November is safe, secure, and accessible. Establishing secure drop boxes for voters to return absentee ballots will give voters the options they need to take advantage of their constitutional right in the midst of a pandemic while ensuring in-person voting for those who choose it will remain safe for both voters and elections officials. A ballot “cure” process will ensure no one’s vote is discarded because of an immaterial omission. HB5103 would allow voters who return their ballot before the election but miss the second envelope signature to rectify their mistake in a timely fashion so that oversight doesn’t void their vote. The key to defeating this pandemic is social distancing and wearing a mask. Eliminating the need to have a witness next to you to vote absentee by mail, providing prepaid postage for mail-in ballots, and establishing secure ballot drop boxes are all important measures to make sure voters can protect their health while exercising their right to vote. We urge you to vote yes.

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