Virginia unemployment fell in June

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After a small increase in Virginia’s unemployment rate in May, the commonwealth’s jobless rate ticked back down in June, and remains well below the national average.

The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reports Virginia’s June unemployment rate was 2.9%, down from 3% in May, and down from 3% a year earlier.

Maryland’s unemployment rate remains slightly above the 3.7% national average, though it was unchanged in June at 3.8%. A year earlier, Maryland’s unemployment rate was 4%.

Vermont had the lowest state unemployment rate in June, at just 2.1%.

Alaska still has the highest state unemployment rate, unchanged in June at 6.4%.

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Middleburg wants proposals to restore historic Asbury Church

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Middleburg, Virginia, wants someone to buy and restore the historic Asbury Church, the oldest standing church in the town — and price is not as important as the plan.

Middleburg, Virginia, wants someone to buy and restore the historic Asbury Church. Click to expand. (Courtesy Town of Middleburg, Virginia)

The Town of Middleburg owns the property and has spent more than $174,000 to stabilize the structure, but now wants to transfer the property to a new owner who can fully restore, preserve and maintain it.

Middleburg has issued a Request for Proposals, which identifies four key objectives for the building’s restoration: The long-term preservation of the interior and exterior; an owner with the financial capability to complete the restoration and keep it usable for years to come; a plan that provides benefits to the community, and one that limits any negative impacts to the surrounding neighborhood.

No price has been set for the property, and offers from potential buyers will be the lowest-rated criterion.

The Asbury Church’s history includes serving as a storehouse, hospital and morgue during the Civil War. It was transferred from the white Methodist congregation to the African-American Methodist Episcopal congregation in 1864.

The building was in active use up until 1994.

Middleburg has set an Oct. 11 deadline for proposals.

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After flooding, Fairfax Co. declares local emergency; other jurisdictions still adding up damage

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Fairfax County, Virginia, became the latest jurisdiction in the area to declare a local emergency following the flash flooding last week that damaged homes, businesses and roads.

The county Board of Supervisors voted for the declaration this week, which is required in Virginia for local governments that plan to seek disaster relief funding for residents and business owners.

The declaration allows jurisdictions to request additional resources from the state and federal governments and could potentially lead to FEMA assistance.

“We’re going to be in that process today, tomorrow and probably in the next couple months, ensuring that these folks are taken care of,” said Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill.

Arlington County and the City of Falls Church already declared their own local emergencies. Early next week, the Alexandria City Council plans to discuss doing the same thing.

“That was a 100-year storm that we experienced,” Hill said.

Local governments across the area are still adding up the damage.

In Maryland, where the jurisdictions are not required to go through the process of declaring a local emergency, officials have been reviewing reports from residents and deciding whether they will seek assistance.

“Getting a federal disaster declaration is very difficult,” said Earl Stoddard, director of Montgomery County’s Emergency Management Agency. “We’re not sure we’re going to meet those thresholds, but we want to give our residents the best opportunity to make the case to the state that such a declaration is necessary.”

Reagan National Airport reported 3.3 inches of rain in an hour, including a half-inch of rain in 11 minutes, during the morning of Monday, July 8.

Between 3 and 6 inches of rain had fallen in Montgomery County by 11 a.m.

Water levels at Cameron Run, in Alexandria, a flood-prone area along the Capital Beltway, rose more than 7 feet over 30 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.

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Virginia Gov. hints at plan for free community college

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NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says he could soon be rolling out a plan for free community college tuition.

In a Wednesday announcement, the Democratic governor described a program that would allow Virginia residents to attend community colleges for free in exchange for a year spent working in public service or a high-demand field.

Northam said it would be called G3 for “get skilled, get a job and give back.” He says he expects more details and a formal announcement to come in a few weeks.

The Virginian-Pilot reports Northam’s proposal follows a plan he laid out while campaigning in 2017. At the time, he said the program would initially cost the state $37 million but would earn more than twice that amount back in income taxes after five years.

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Former Virginia inmate wins $1M in medical malpractice suit

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A former Virginia inmate won more than $1 million in a malpractice suit against prison medical staff he accused of improperly treating his broken finger, saying he still feels the effects.

U.S. District Court records show a jury awarded the damages to 32-year-old John Kinlaw on Thursday.

News outlets report he filed a suit against Armor Correctional Health Services Inc., after his release from Lunenburg Correctional Center in 2017. He says he fractured a finger bone in the prison recreation yard and medical staff only gave him an icepack. The suit accuses staff of ignoring X-rays that showed he could need surgery.

The complaint says Kinlaw waited over 100 days before being taken to a specialist, who confirmed his hand healed wrong.

Armor’s lawyers say the jury misunderstood medical facts.

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Virginia GOP House speaker pushes for another tuition freeze

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia GOP House Speaker Kirk Cox says he plans to prioritize education spending if he’s still in power next year.

Cox announced Thursday that his goal is to see Virginia teacher pay catch up to the national average in four years. The speaker is a retired teacher and said he also wants another tuition freeze at state universities next year.

State lawmakers passed a budget earlier this year that boosted public school teacher pay and held college tuition flat.

Cox is leading Republicans in a tough election year. The GOP is trying to hold on to a slim majority in a state that’s increasingly voting for Democratic candidates.

Democrats slammed Cox’s announcement as election-year grandstanding and faulted him for not doing more in past years to address Virginia’s education funding problems.

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Chemical fire empties Virginia plant, causes shelter warning

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ACCOMAC, Va. (AP) — A chemical fire at a poultry plant in Virginia led the plant to be evacuated and locals warned to stay indoors.

News outlets report two tanks holding paracetic acid and sodium chloride caught fire Wednesday afternoon at Perdue Farms in Accomac. The tanks were near a fuel tank, which caused additional worries.

Accomack County Board of Supervisors Chairman Donald L. Hart Jr. says fighting the fire with water could have caused an explosion, so authorities allowed it to burn out.

The facility was completely closed and evacuated. Residents within north and northeast of the facility were warned to stay indoors to avoid current air conditions

The fire was extinguished early Thursday. No injuries were immediately reported. The state Department of Emergency management assisted with cleanup.

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96-year-old Springfield man breaks 5K world record for his age group

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Though it’s still pending review, 96-year-old Springfield, Virginia, resident Roy Englert clocked a new 5K record in the 95-99 age group at 42:30.23 during the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships in Ames, Iowa, last week.

The previous record was 50:10.56, set by Frank Levine in 2009, USA Track & Field said.

Englert holds other running records as well.

And he isn’t much for compliments.

“I don’t consider myself that much of an inspiration. I’m a slow runner,” he said in a Run Washington profile. “But I guess I’ve outlasted almost everybody. It gets easier to win when there’s not as much competition around.”

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