Dept. of Justice awards $10.8 million to assist with Virginia’s COVID-19 response


(Photo: Courtesy MGN Online)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WFXR) — The Commonwealth has been awarded more than $10.8 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for staffing, overtime, protective gear, or medical care for jails and prisons, as well as other public safety problems posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a news release from the DOJ on Friday, May 1, the grants going toward the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and the City of Petersburg are available under the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Program, which has been authorized under the recent stimulus legislation signed by President Donald Trump. Officials say the DOJ is working to award grants on a rolling basis and aiming to have funds available for draw-down as soon as possible after receiving applications.

“Those on the front lines of the public safety response to the coronavirus have our support, gratitude, and utmost respect,” says U.S. Attorney Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia. “The Department of Justice provides this funding with significant flexibility, so that state and local departments can use it in the ways that best benefit their officers and their community.”

The DOJ says the CESF Program allows U.S. states, territories, local governments, federally recognized tribal governments, and the District of Columbia to support various activities in order to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the pandemic.

According to officials, projects or initiatives funded by this program may include (but are not limited to):

  • Overtime
  • Equipment, including PPE for law enforcement and healthcare workers
  • Hiring
  • Supplies such as gloves, masks, sanitizer, etc.
  • Training
  • Travel expenses, especially related to the distribution of resources to the areas most impacted by the virus
  • Medical care for inmates in state, local, or tribal prisons, jails, and detention centers

“U.S. Attorney Terwilliger and I are committed to working closely with our state and local partners to protect the public during this difficult time,” says Thomas Cullen, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia. “It is our hope that these funds will assist the Virginia DCJS in meeting its core responsibilities.”

In addition, the Office of Justice Programs — directed by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan — provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance, and other resources to strengthen the criminal and juvenile justice system, thus improving the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, assist victims, and enhance the rule of law, according to Friday’s news release.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 and the public health emergency it created are sobering reminders that even the most routine duties performed by our nation’s public safety officials carry potentially grave risks,” says Sullivan. “These funds will provide hard-hit communities with critical resources to help mitigate the impact of this crisis and give added protection to the brave professionals charged with keeping citizens safe.”

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