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Warner discusses Minor League Baseball Relief Act in Richmond

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 11:39 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The COVID-19 pandemic shut down all of Minor League Baseball in 2020. Now, as teams try to rebound, a Virginia senator is leading the charge to get them some financial relief.

Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) visited The Diamond on Thursday afternoon to hold a discussion on the Minor League Baseball Relief Act. Warner is one of five lawmakers heading up this bipartisan piece of legislation, which would allocate $550 million of unused COVID-19 relief money for an emergency grant program. The act has bipartisan support and Warner is hoping to get it passed by the World Series in October.

“Over the last year, the federal government has helped small businesses, it’s helped restaurants, it’s helped music venues,” Warner noted. “I think it’s time that the federal government take money that we’ve not spent, so I’m not talking about spending new money, taking some of the unused COVID funds and making sure that we offer [Minor League Baseball teams] the opportunity to participate in a grant program.”

Warner noted during his remarks that the act would likely need to be attached to another bill to move it forward.

The average minor league club lost more than 90 percent of its revenue from 2019 to 2020. These organizations are more than just teams, but big parts of their local communities. Most were forced to cut staff and were unable to make their usual community contributions, but these grants would go a long way in getting organizations back on their feet.

“For some teams, it’s going to be a case a life and death. They’re going to be able to survive if this bill goes through,” Flying Squirrels’ vice president and chief operating officer Todd “Parney” Parnell said. “For us, we’re so fortunate to be in a situation where we’re one of the premier franchises in the country, but we still have been absolutely knocked to the ground financially and this will help us get up off the canvas and continue to fight, but fight with a lot more strength than we’ve had before.”

“The Flying Squirrels and the nine minor league teams across Virginia, they’re more than just the direct jobs they bring to the community,” added Warner. “In many communities, they’re the heart and sole that holds the community together.”

While back to playing in 2021, minor league franchises faced late starts and attendance limitations to begin the season and are on track to lose more money this season.

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