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I want to update Virginians on some of the efforts I am undertaking in Congress to get our economy back on track.
You may recall in the September 28 edition of this newsletter, I wrote that the U.S. House voted to extend unemployment benefits only in states where the unemployment rate is 8.5% or higher. Virginia, which has an unemployment rate of 6.5%, was not one of the states that would benefit from this bill, so I voted against it. At the same time, I continued to work for solutions for regions like Southside Virginia, which still face local unemployment rates that are unacceptably high. I lobbied congressional leaders and introduced legislation to extend unemployment benefits in all states, including Virginia.
I’m pleased to report that on November 5, 2009 the U.S. House passed a revised version of the bill that mirrors my legislation. Virginians’ unemployment benefits will now be extended for an additional 14 weeks. This is a major victory to get help to those who need it the most. I’m very pleased my legislation was adopted so that Virginia workers will get this lifeline to help them stay afloat while they seek new employment.
Also in that same bill was another provision I fought for to shore up our crippled housing market – extending the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit. This measure was originally included as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus bill, which I supported back in February. The program has a proven successful track record, as shown by rising home sales across the nation and right here in the 5th District. In fact, according to the most recent quarterly sales report from the Virginia Association of Realtors, total existing home sales in Virginia are up 5.3 percent in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the second quarter numbers, and have reached the highest quarterly total in 2009.
With the measure originally set to expire on November 30, 2009, I joined with a bipartisan group to call for its extension in a letter to congressional leaders. We succeeded in this most recent bill and now, the tax credit will be extended to first-time homebuyers with a binding contract before April 30, 2010, allowing 60 days to close.
The bill also expands the homebuyer tax credit to more families, phasing out for individuals with income above $125,000 and for joint filers with income about $225,000 (the current law credit phases out for individuals with income starting at $75,000 and for joint filers with income starting at $150,000). It also creates a $6,500 credit available to homebuyers who have been in their current residence for five or more consecutive years out of the last eight years.
Lastly, I met last week on Veterans Day with the 5th District Veterans Advisory Board, men and women from our area who advise me on legislation I should be pushing for as a member of the U.S. House Veterans Advisory Committee. We discussed a big legislative victory aimed at getting medical care to our veterans in a more timely and efficient matter. However, it’s clear from the stories I heard that we need to be doing better on this front. I will continue to listen and respond to veterans especially in our rural areas to make sure they have access to the care they have earned.
Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may call 1-888-4-TOM4US (1-888-486-6487); write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; or visit www.perriello.house.gov to sign up for my weekly e-newsletter.