Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order Tuesday that directed state agencies to report suspensions and fines related to COVID violations imposed by his predecessor, Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam.
In addition, Youngkin announced he will end all future COVID restriction fines in his budget plan later this month. The plan will include a reimbursement process for anyone who paid "unjust" fines.
"I am today requiring a statewide review of COVID-19 related penalties imposed by the Northam administration," Youngkin said in a statement. "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. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to address this, forgive COVID fines and fees and restore licenses that were unjustly suspended."
There will, however, be certain exceptions to the reimbursement policy.
"The budget language will not apply to instances where the violation was in relation to practices, guidelines, rules or operating procedures intended to protect the health and safety of individuals, patients, residents, and staff of hospitals, nursing homes, certified nursing facilities, hospices, or assisted living facilities," the governor's statement concluded.
In 2020, businesses in violation of the state's COVID policies could face a penalty of up to $13,000 per violation and accrue up to $130,000 in fines.
Youngkin's announcement comes just days after Gourmeltz, a Fredricksburg-area restaurant, was raided by authorities for COVID violations. Matt Strickland, the owner of the restaurant, spoke out about the raid in a Facebook video. Strickland's frustration inspired many across Virginia who are wondering why businesses are still being investigated over COVID restrictions, even though the state's governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general are all Republican.
"Here is the current situation going on at Gourmeltz," GOP State Sen. Amanda Chase tweeted last week. "Language Disclaimer! The owners are obviously upset. Keep these Patriots & this veteran owned business in your prayers. Flood this business to show we won't stand for unconstitutional mandates!"
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