(The Center Square) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin will include language in his budget proposal to reimburse some businesses that were forced to pay fines and fees for violating COVID-19 rules under the previous administration.
The proposed budget language, which the governor will introduce next week, will direct the secretary of finance to work with agencies to develop a reimbursement process. The reimbursement will only apply to fines and fees the governor deems unjust.
Although Youngkin did not specify what he will consider an unjust fee or fine, he said the reimbursement language will not apply to the violation of rules that were meant to protect the health and safety of individuals, patients, residents and staff of hospitals, nursing homes, certified nursing facilities, hospices or assisted living facilities.
“I look forward to working with the General Assembly to address this, forgive COVID fines and fees and restore licenses that were unjustly suspended,” Youngkin said in a statement.
The exact cost of the reimbursements is not yet clear, but the governor signed an executive order that directs agencies, boards and commissions to report fines, fees and suspensions related to the shutdown. He said the budget language will also stop agencies from enforcing any outstanding penalties on businesses.
“I am … requiring a statewide review of COVID-19 related penalties imposed by the Northam administration,” Youngkin said. “The fact that businesses are still dealing with COVID-19 related penalties and fines is infuriating. Livelihoods are on the line. In the previous administration, we saw our government shut down businesses, close our schools, and separate us from each other. While we can’t undo the damage done during the Northam administration, we are taking action going forward to end COVID-era draconian overreach.”
The governor’s announcement came shortly after the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority raided a Fredericksburg restaurant in relation to its violation of COVID-19 rules. The restaurant, Gourmeltz, had allowed people to sit at the bar and openly defied face covering requirements and social distancing rules when those were still in effect.
Even though none of those rules are still in effect, the ABC’s penalties had been tied up in the courts until November of this year. On Nov. 15, the court permitted the ABC to serve Gourmeltz a suspension of its licenses to sell beer, wine and liquor. The ABC conducted the raid based on allegations that Gourmeltz was ignoring the order and continuing to sell alcohol.
Gourmeltz owner Matt Strickland is also a Republican candidate for the 27th Senate District.