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November 15, 2023

New Community-Driven Policy Agenda a Strong Foundation for Transformative Change in Virginia

Richmond, VA — After several months of working with and listening to community leaders and partners about the needs of Virginia families and communities, The Commonwealth Institute (TCI) released a “Collective Agenda for Virginia’s Future” today, outlining policy priorities for the upcoming legislative session and beyond. 

“This Collective Agenda reflects who we are as an organization,” says Ashley Kenneth, President and CEO of The Commonwealth Institute. “It draws from our expertise in policy and data analysis, coalition building, and — most importantly — conversations with community leaders and trusted partners to envision a future where everyone in Virginia has the resources they need to thrive and to spotlight specific state policy solutions that will help get us there.”

Collective Agenda includes four major buckets:

  • Greater economic opportunity, which includes building an economy that works for all of us, strengthening worker power, raising the minimum wage, and advancing tax policy that helps families make ends meet.
  • Safe and healthy communities, which focuses on building on Medicaid progress, removing barriers to children’s health coverage, and engaging with communities to co-create solutions for safe and vibrant places to live.
  • Great public schools for every student by fully and fairly funding our schools.
  • A fair tax code and ample resources for community priorities by making sure everyone pitches in their fair share.

“With so many new faces in the General Assembly, we have a rare opportunity to spark transformative change in Virginia,” says Freddy Mejia, Policy Director at TCI. “While ‘Collective Agenda’ does not encompass every state policy solution that would advance racial and economic justice, it does provide lawmakers with a critical starting point to keep the needs of our communities at the forefront of their decision-making.”

Along with organizational partners, TCI collaborated with a coalition of community leaders focused on racial and economic justice. 

“No policy agenda should be set without centering the voices of the people most impacted by policy decisions,” says Amy Wentz, TCI’s Director of Outreach and Engagement. “By working closely with community leaders, we have gained a deeper understanding of the Virginia they dream of and have been working toward. With the diverse expertise that we each bring to the table, together, we can champion new laws and policies that allow everyone in Virginia to thrive, no exceptions.”

“Our youth and young adults deserve to grow up and live out their dreams,” says Sulaymaan Alkarriem of the We R Me Foundation in a quote included in the agenda. “We must support efforts that lift families out of poverty, provide resources to community members returning from incarceration, and expose children to experiences that expand their minds.” 

“We envision a future where families never have to choose between their child’s health and life’s necessities,” says Crimson Solano of Comité Salvadoreño Paisanos Unidos (COSPU) in another quote. ”To achieve this, we must tear down the barriers that deny coverage to 13,000 children, invest in their well-being, and unite as a community. Together, we can ensure that every child in Virginia receives the care they deserve, regardless of who they are or where they come from.” 

“Virginia is home to a vast yet untapped people-powered sector that persists despite being systemically excluded from major economic incentives and corporate safety net legislation for generations,” says Free Bangura of Untold RVA (quoted in the Agenda). “I’m stepping up to support this collective work as we develop new pathways for historically marginalized Virginians to level up with a whole new set of strategic power tools developed especially for all those on the front lines of the struggle to make and do.”

The Commonwealth Institute

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