Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin wants to reimburse businesses fined for COVID violations

Gov. elect Glenn Youngkin with wife Suzanne Youngkin wave to the crowd before his inauguration ceremony, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin says he wants to see businesses that were hit with fines for violating COVID-19 mandates get their money back.

During the height of the pandemic, businesses faced fines on mandates from social distancing to the wearing of face masks. Youngkin wants to ask legislators and agencies to reimburse some fines and fees.

Gov. Youngkin issued an executive order Tuesday that also directs enforcement agencies, boards and commissions to report all fines, fees and suspensions related to shutdown violations. 

“The fact that businesses are still dealing with COVID-19 related penalties and fines is infuriating. Livelihoods are on the line,” Youngkin said in a statement. “While we can’t undo the damage done during the Northam administration, we are taking action going forward to end COVID-era draconian overreach.”

Youngkin plans to include language to stop any continuing enforcement actions and reimburse some penalties in the budget. But it won’t 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 order comes just days after Gourmeltz restaurant in Fredericksburg went viral during a state raid following a dispute over COVID regulation with Virginia’s Alcohol Beverage Control.

Gov. Youngkin told the Virginia Economic Forum on Friday that he wants to roll back burdensome regulations. But Gourmeltz owner Matt Strickland says the order isn’t clear about when fined businesses could get their money back.

“He knew he had to do something, and he did something, but his administration isn’t smart enough to know, and we need to do something because if we don’t, it’ll be even worse and that’s what they did. They brought more heat on themselves,” says Strickland.

Strickland says he’s paid six figures in COVID-related fines and legal costs, and now is running for Virginia State Senate. 

There is no timeline for reimbursements in Youngkin’s executive order. However, the order did say he would include a framework for the reimbursements in his upcoming budget proposal.