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Lawmakers urge Navy to protect private shipyards

The Virginia delegation pushes for contract adjustments and small business loans that could help in the pandemic.

WASHINGTON — One contractor at BAE Systems in Norfolk has died from COVID-19 complications, and 29 workers have now tested positive for the virus at Newport News Shipbuilding, 

Virginia's two US Senators and 10 house members have now signed a letter, asking the Navy to continue to look out for the state's five major private shipyards, and for the medical and financial health of their workers.

In their letter, the 12 lawmakers say: "We believe that the private shipbuilding and ship maintenance industrial base is performing a vital public function during this pandemic and should remain open for business ... During these challenging times, we are particularly concerned about the shipbuilding and ship repair enterprise and safety of our ship workers."  

 "There is nothing that could have made us and our industry any happier," said    Virginia Ship Repair Association President Bill Crow. "It is a great and wonderful thing to know that our congressional delegation does realize that our people are national treasures and national assets."

Crow notes that his organization's welfare is critical to national defense and to the Hampton Roads economy, with over 250 member companies, 60,000 jobs and $4.3 billion in employee earnings and benefits.

He backs the letter's request for contractual adjustments and small business loans that might be needed because of COVID-19 impacts.

"That is paramount because if that money flows and it gets to these companies and it is provided to them with as many obstacles and barricades removed as possible that helps our industry enormously as far as staying at work," he said.

RELATED: Newport News Shipyard moves to 2 shifts in effort to reduce virus spread

RELATED: BAE Systems Norfolk confirms contractor at shipyard dies of COVID-19 complications