Group pushes for Virginia lawmakers to address affordability

Posted at 12:53 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 17:31:22-05

NORFOLK, Va. - A group of Virginians who say they're having difficulty affording everyday things met with lawmakers on Wednesday morning.

Freedom Virginia organized the meeting, and the group is calling on the General Assembly to address things like high utility bills, high prescription costs and the lack of mandated paid sick leave in Virginia.

A common theme was people living paycheck-to-paycheck.

"I'm terrified of getting sick, absolutely petrified of getting COVID because if I'm out of work for that amount of time, I don't know how I would be able to support myself," said Josh Hayes, a VCU student.

Another speaker named Chris said he has Type 1 diabetes but has trouble affording all of the costs that go with it and has a higher insurance premium than anyone else in his family.

"That means I live vial-to-vial or paycheck-to-paycheck, so to speak," Chris said.

Brian Casey recalled a time he had to work at a butcher's shop with a cold due to having no paid time off.

"I, red and congested, was disgusted by the quality of my work and simply by my presence being there in such a state," he said.

Right now, several bills are working their way through the General Assembly that could address these issues.

Here are several of them:

  • HB591 aims to increase efficiency in drug reimbursement programs at state agencies to help reduce the cost of prescriptions.
  • HB1054 prevents utility companies from disconnecting someone's service due to nonpayment during a state of emergency or some kind of disaster declaration.
  • HB1288 allows the state to review utility rates and take corrective action if they are deemed to be too high. The bill was continued into the 2023 session in a sub-committee.
  • HB997 and SB 624 require employers of home healthcare workers to offer paid sick leave.
  • HB1160 requires employers to provide paid sick leave to other jobs, like grocery store workers.
  • SB376 would create the Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board to review prescription drug price increases and set limits on prices. The bill has been continued into the 2023 session.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin has said he plans to address affordability with a plan to cut taxes, including at the grocery store.

Lawmakers are continuing to work out bills during their session, which runs until March 12.