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April 9, 2009

Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Thursday, April 9, 2009

By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff Writer

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine spoke out Thursday morning in Martinsville against the "unfortunate vote" Tuesday in the House of Delegates that killed a proposed expansion of unemployment benefits.

Kaine spoke while meeting with staff of the Martinsville office of the Virginia Employment Commission. He is visiting Henry County and Martinsville with his cabinet and staff as part of his first Cabinet Community Day of 2009.

Virginia lost a potential $125 million in federal stimulus money Tuesday when the Republican-controlled House of Delegates rejected Kaine's proposed amendments to state unemployment laws.

The changes would have expanded benefits for the first time to part-time workers who have lost jobs and would have doubled the period in which people can receive benefits while in retraining programs.

"I just can't fathom the thinking behind it," Kaine said of the Republicans who voted against the bill.

He added that retraining programs are vital to areas like Martinsville, where VEC Manager Barbara Redd said about half of VEC clients need to learn computer fluency and other new skills.

"Rejecting training money is like saying, "˜We don't want our workforce to have greater skills,'" Kaine said.

"This is not about an ideological battle. It's about people sitting around the kitchen table who have lost a job and are trying to figure out how to pay the bills," he said.

After visiting the VEC, Kaine headed to Liberty Fair Mall to see The Starting Place, which offers classes and resources for parents of children from birth to age 5. It is run by Smart Beginnings of Martinsville & Henry County, a coalition of 15 organizations and businesses that aims to help parents provide for their children's social, emotional, physical and academic needs.

During his visit, Kaine talked to a mother signing her son up for health coverage through the state FAMIS program and sat down with children playing in the age-appropriate play area.

Kaine, who has been an advocate of early childhood programs, called The Starting Place "a very good model."?

He praised "the way they've put all the services together and put them in the mall, which makes it convenient for folks."?

Kaine then continued to the Virginia Museum of Natural History for the annual legislative lunch with the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce.

Kaine is scheduled to visit Red Birch Energy and Martinsville Speedway this afternoon. He will be joined throughout the day by area legislators and officials.

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