Sen. Tim Kaine speaks to Calvin and Rita Mayberry, owners of Cal’s Urban Wear and Beauty Inc. in Emporia.

Sen. Tim Kaine came to Emporia, visiting two local businesses and the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Golden Leaf Commons. The visit was a scheduled stop on Kaine’s 6-day trek across Southside Virginia on Rt. 58, discussing the impacts of COVID-19 and relief provided by the newly passed American Rescue Plan.

Kaine’s visit began at Cal’s Urban Wear and Beauty Inc. on South Main Street. There, he met with owners Calvin and Rita Mayberry, who said this past year has been a struggle at times. Nevertheless, they consider themselves blessed to have remained open and prosperous while so many other small, locally owned businesses have not been so fortunate.

The Mayberry’s said their business received a $5,000 grant from the City of Emporia that was passed down through CARES Act funding given to local governments. Kaine discussed how the American Rescue Plan would provide $2.8 billion in relief for counties and cities across Virginia. City Manager William Johnson said the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office was working to acquire another round of grants for local Emporia businesses affected by COVID-19.

Rita Mayberry, who was emotional speaking on the subject, said the store has survived on the help of their friends and others who volunteered their time to help make the store safe for customers and staff.

Kaine then visited Cain’s Barbershop, an Emporia staple located at the intersection of Rt. 301 and East Atlantic Street. The Senator bumped elbows with residents and staff, and took time to hear how Cain’s has retained their loyal customer base throughout the pandemic.

The Senator also made time to visit the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Golden Leaf Commons. Emporia Emergency Services Coordinator Mike Rae spoke with Kaine about how the clinic came together using the help of volunteer health care workers and pharmacists. Kaine led residents and staff in an applause of thanks for the volunteers who made the clinic possible.

Kaine also discussed the $17 billion set aside for broadband infrastructure in the American Rescue Plan that will be allocated to states. He said once Virginia receives its portion of the funding, Gov. Northam will decide where the money is most needed, acknowledging the pressing need for basic broadband infrastructure in regions like Emporia-Greensville. Kaine also mentioned that President Biden’s recently proposed $2 trillion infrastructure bill would greatly expand high-speed broadband infrastructure across the country.

“I believe that between the American Rescue Plan and this infrastructure bill, which we’re trying to do before maybe August 1,” Kaine said, “we should be able to get broadband to every house in this country. It will take a while to build it out, but now that we’re doing school online and tele-health and Zoom with your family – it only works if you’ve got broadband.”