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As Shutdown Drags On, County Offers More Assistance for Furloughed Workers

Now that this latest government shutdown has become the longest in the nation’s history, Arlington officials are taking some new steps to lend a hand to furloughed workers missing out on paychecks.

The county already announced plans last week to arrange payment plans for utility bills, should any of Arlington’s thousands of federal employees need help keeping afloat while the shutdown continues. Now, it also plans to offer tax relief and waive some fees as well, per a press release.

Anyone with concerns about meeting a tax deadline can call the county treasurer’s office at 703-228-4000 to work out a payment deal through the county’s “Taxpayer Assistance Program.”

Furloughed workers can also apply for the Department of Parks and Recreation’s “fee reduction policy” if they have trouble paying fees to use county facilities or programs. The county’s library system is also waiving overdue fees for some federal employees; people can call 703-228-5940 or visit a library and provide a federal ID to see if they qualify.

Arlington Economic Development hopes to offer resources for small businesses impacted by the slowdown in spending stemming from the shutdown. Any business owners “seeking assistance on how to restructure your business, financing or to discuss changes to your business strategy” can contact the agency’s “BizLaunch” office.

“I am hopeful that our efforts as a county will make a difference, but the longer this goes on, the more difficulty we’re going to be facing,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “Until this shutdown is over, I am asking every Arlington resident and business-owner to be on the lookout for opportunities to help those who might be in need.”

As local businesses suffer due to the shutdown, so too could county tax revenues. Economists estimate that the shutdown costs the entire region about $119 million a day, and the county says it previously saw a “decline in sales, meals and hotel tax revenues due to drops in government-related business travel to the area” during the last extended shutdown in 2013.

“An absence of federal workers in key business districts on weekdays also brought less spending at restaurants, dry cleaners and other local businesses,” county staff wrote. “The county maintains reserve funds specifically to address such unexpected events and shortfalls in revenue.”

The county doesn’t expect to lose much direct revenue from the federal government as a result of the shutdown, though it will “monitor the status of these programs for any potential disruptions,” but any drop in tax revenues could prove to be quite troublesome as officials turn to an already-challenging budget for the new fiscal year.

Arlington’s persistently high office vacancy rate has already squeezed county coffers, and the County Board could soon be grappling with a budget deficit as high as $78 million, even before any impact from the shutdown.

File photo

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