Arlington, VA

What’s Next with Nicole is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

It has been a strange few weeks. While life seems to stand still, so much is happening in our community.

Close Street Lanes

Maintaining your mental health during these odd times cannot be understated. Getting in regular exercise to kickstart your endorphins is important and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Whether you are running, pushing a stroller, or walking with a loved one, sometimes our sidewalks are just not wide enough to keep a distance of 6 feet. A majority of people are trying to make enough space but it is oftentimes near impossible.

I would propose closing one lane of traffic in each direction where there are two lanes available in major corridors.

These connective roads could include: Wilson Boulevard, Walter Reed Drive, Glebe Road, George Mason Drive, Lee Highway, and more.

Traffic has decreased significantly and this would not be an undue burden on travelers.

Provide Unemployment Filing Hotline Help

It would be helpful if the Arlington Employment Center or another relevant entity could help residents with phone assistance while the state phone lines are being overwhelmed. While this is not normally a service that Arlington would provide, it would be of great public benefit.

The online filing form for unemployment in Virginia and Washington, D.C. is not set up for shift or gig workers. I add D.C. to this because many Arlington residents’ last job was in D.C. and would thus file for unemployment there. There are case-specific questions that don’t make sense and if answered incorrectly can delay vitally important payments.

About 150,000 filed for uninsurance in Virginia last week, and Governor Northam has stated that the helplines are overwhelmed. If localities can provide their own hotline help this might alleviate some stress on the system and get more people properly filed.

Businesses Surviving the Pandemic

Hats off to Arlington Economic Development’s BizLaunch and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce for hosting the upcoming webinar “Business Tools to Survive a Pandemic” with the Small Business Administration’s Washington Office.

The CARES Act is providing $2 trillion in economic relief. This series will help businesses of all types and sizes figure out the resources that will become available to them as a result.

Other business resources are available online here.

Two Thumbs Way Way Up For Erik Gutshall

I am so incredibly sad to hear about Erik Gutshall’s resignation from the County Board. After announcing his diagnosis just weeks ago, his request for the community to lift his spirits was to encourage everyone to attend community events. In flooded pictures of active community members at meetings who were #hereforerik.

As a Board member he is someone that really knows the details. Because of his background as a former Planning Commission chair he doesn’t just talk about “Missing Middle Housing” in the conceptual ether — he brings good, tangible, policy solutions to the table. Just recently, we talked about solar metering, purchasing agreements, and how to implement the new SOLAR FREEDOM bill for thirty minutes at a Lee Highway Planning open house.

Erik is an Arlington policy nerd in the best way possible. The community will have big shoes to fill as he steps away.

Cancer sucks.

Nicole Merlene is an Arlington native and former candidate for Virginia State Senate. She has served as a leader in the community on the boards of the Arlington County Civic Federation and North Rosslyn Civic Association, as an Arlington Economic Development commissioner, in neighborhood transportation planning groups, and as a civic liaison to the Rosslyn Business Improvement District.

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