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Protesters Rally Against Arlington Social Security Office Closure

Despite this afternoon’s heat, dozens of protesters crowded the sidewalk in front of Rosslyn’s Social Security Administration office to rally against its potential closure.

The office, those speaking at the megaphone argued, is a vital component of serving the area’s Social Security benefit recipients.

“If you close this office, you’re cutting a social security benefit,” said J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “It’s just like cutting somebody’s social security check — you’re cutting the ability for them to access the services that they need.”

The activists’ argue that many people who receive benefits are either aging or disabled and need an easily accessible, local office. That portion of the population needs to be able to consult a human being face-to-face in order to maximize their benefits.

Using an internet portal, they say, was inefficient for some benefit recipients because they tend to not include sufficient or accurate information on forms, have difficulty using a computer, or don’t have the ability to access the internet.

County Board member Christian Dorsey made an appearance, arguing that there’s plenty of room for the Social Security Administration to maintain an Arlington presence.

“This pains me to say as a public official, but office space is not that expensive in Arlington right now,” said Dorsey, pledging to use county resources to find the SSA a more amenable lease. “There are plenty of opportunities for the SSA to stay.”

The Social Security Administration has an office in Alexandria, but anyone looking to get there from Arlington would have to take a trip down the Blue Line to the Van Dorn Metro station and then hop on a bus. The SSA’s website doesn’t even list that office as being nearby if users enter a Rosslyn zip code to find a location.

“To lose the ability to connect people to an office thats within a short walk of heavy rail and to put them in an office more than a mile away from the closest Metro station speaks of poor planning and speaks of insensitivity,” said Dorsey. “We want to reverse that.”

Dorsey himself only learned of the closure a few weeks ago from an Arlingtonian who works with AFGE.

“You would expect, in a world where there’s a governmental asset, that you’d at least get a heads-up when there’s a rethinking of delivering that service — but that’s not the world we live in,” Dorsey said.

About 90 people come to the office every day to use the office, according to Dorsey.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has also written a letter to the SSA’s internal watchdog requesting an investigation into the agency’s decision to close the office.

A full video of the rally has been made available by Social Security Works, an organization in favor of expanding the program.

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County Government, Facilities Closed as Snow Gets Underway

(Updated at 8:05 a.m.) Those waking up expecting a winter wonderland were instead greeted by icy but mostly snowless roads and sidewalks this morning.

Still, local governments, agencies and schools are taking no chances as snow starts to ramp up in the metro area.

Arlington County government offices, courts, community centers and other facilities are closed today and the county is urging residents to “stay off the roads as the snowstorm enters the area.”

Schools are also closed and all parks and rec programs and activities are cancelled. Trash and recycling collection has been bumped back a day.

Trash & Recycling collection for today, March 21, 2018, has been cancelled. Service will resume tomorrow with the collection schedule shifting by 24 hours. Wednesday collection will occur Thursday, Thursday collection will occur Friday, Friday collection will occur Saturday.

The federal government is closed today, the Office of Personnel Management announced. Along with federal agencies, Joint Base Myer Henderson-Hall is also closed. Emergency and telework-ready employees must follow their agency’s procedures, OPM said.

VRE and MARC service is cancelled, most Amtrak service is cancelled, and Metrobus and Metrorail is operating on a modified service schedule. Arlington Transit buses, meanwhile, are also operating on a reduced schedule.

“Expect snow today 8AM-8PM. Metrobus avoiding hills & narrow streets. ART will provide limited service as conditions permit,” ART said via email.

VDOT is urging drivers to “avoid being caught in hazardous conditions such as limited visibility and slick or snow-covered roads, as well as to allow crews plenty of room to work safely.”

For those who must drive, HOV restrictions have been lifted on local highways.

High occupancy vehicle (HOV) restrictions are lifted on I-66 (inside and outside the Beltway) and on I-395 (from Edsall Road to D.C.) for the morning and afternoon rush hours today. Because HOV restrictions are lifted, tolls on the 66 Express Lanes inside the Beltway will also be suspended today. Please also be aware that shoulder lanes on I-66 and I-495 may be closed through the day to allow crews room to treat.

Even before the bulk of the snow arrives, issues are being reported on the roads. As of 7:10 a.m., firefighters were responding to a report of two vehicles that spun out and off the road along the GW Parkway near Roosevelt Bridge.

More weather updates via Twitter:

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BREAKING: Arlington Schools, Federal Gov’t Closed Due to Wind Storm

(Updated at 6:30 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools are closed today (Friday) due to weather concerns.

All schools and offices are closed, APS announced this morning, though custodians are being asked to report at 6 a.m. “regardless of your regular shift.”

Elementary and middle schools were already scheduled to be closed due to parent-teacher conferences, but those conferences have been cancelled, as have “extracurricular activities, interscholastic games, team practices, field trips, adult education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds.”

Marymount University, meanwhile, is also closed.

Federal government offices in the D.C. area are closed due to the wind storm, the Office of Personnel Management announced early Friday morning.

Due to safety concerns, Virginia Railway Express service has been cancelled for today. Reagan National Airport is encouraging travellers to check the status of their flight before coming to the airport. Power problems have been reported on Metro’s Blue and Yellow lines, causing delays, while the rest of the Metrorail system is running every 12 minutes with reduced speeds above ground.

As of 5:30 a.m., Dominion is reporting more than 9,000 customers without power in Arlington already.

Already, there have been reports of trees, branches and other debris down in Arlington, and the dangerous winds are expected to continue throughout the day. Residents are being encouraged to stay indoors whenever possible and to remain in the lower levels of homes.

More via social media:

https://twitter.com/ArlingtonVaFD/status/969489464883064832

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Arlington’s Congressional Delegation Blames GOP for Possible Government Shutdown

Arlington County’s representatives in Congress are blaming Republicans for the looming government shutdown, set to take effect at midnight tonight.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a short-term continuing resolution late last night (Thursday) to keep the federal government open for another month while negotiations continue on a long-term spending deal.

A major sticking-point for Democrats is the status of immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, who were brought to the United States illegally as minors and shielded from deportation.

President Donald Trump announced he would end the program as of March, and since then Democratic legislators have pushed for a permanent solution.

Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents Arlington in Congress as well as Alexandria, Falls Church and a section of Fairfax County, slammed the continuing resolution as “appalling and absurd.” It is the fourth in as many months as wrangling over the federal budget continues.

Beyer’s full statement is below:

“House Republicans are now forcing us to take our fourth vote on a short-term funding resolution in as many months. This is appalling and absurd.

Like my fellow House Democrats, I spent months imploring my Republican colleagues to take action on key priorities for the American people, including passing long term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and protecting Dreamers. But they were too busy trying to use hundreds of thousands of young people’s lives as leverage and cutting taxes for the wealthy to solve these problems.

Donald Trump claims he wants to help Dreamers, yet he keeps taking to Twitter to derail bipartisan efforts to solve a problem he created. Republicans suddenly decided this week that they cared about CHIP, but they could have passed a clean reauthorization of CHIP any time in the past few months and refused to do so.

The President keeps talking about how ‘our military needs’ this, but has he listened to them when they have said that they need long term budget certainty? The same is true of our non-defense agencies, which are having to guess again and again about when and how they will be funded as the Republicans who have complete control of government repeatedly fail to do the basic job of governing.

The federal workforce deserves better than to experience the fifth Congressional budget fight in five months in February. I do not want the government to shut down, and today introduced bipartisan legislation with my friend Congressman Rob Wittman to protect federal workers’ pay if that happens. But Congress’ refusal to live up to its basic responsibilities to the American people must end.”

Were the government to shut down, for the first time since 2013, many federal workers would be furloughed — sent home without pay. It would also represent the first time that the federal government has shut down with one political party in control of all branches of government.

And Beyer has tried to mitigate the impact on federal workers — many of whom live in his district — by introducing the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act alongside fellow Virginia Rep. Rob Wittman (R).

The bill, which the pair introduced last April when another shutdown threat threatened, would guarantee back pay for federal workers who are furloughed.

“We are working hard to avoid a government shutdown, but if it comes our bill would protect federal workers from the worst of the consequences,” Beyer said in a statement. “This legislation is designed to shield civil servants, who need to support their families, from the disastrous effects of Congress’ failure to agree on a budget measure. We hope it will not be needed, but time is running out.”

In a joint statement Thursday, U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (both D-Va.) criticized the House’s continuing resolution. The plan appears to have significant opposition from both sides of the aisle in the U.S. Senate.

The pair said it creates “uncertainty” to not have a long-term budget deal and to instead rely on short-term resolutions, and ignores many important issues.

“The current CR ignores key priorities — community health centers, permanent protection for Dreamers, emergency relief for Florida, Texas, western states ravaged by wildfires, Puerto Rico, the USVI, opioid treatment, and pension reform,” they said. “These issues are not going away and need to be addressed immediately.”

Kaine and Warner’s full joint statement is after the jump.

“We oppose the House Continuing Resolution, which punts budget discussions until mid-February. Congress should remain in session with no recess until we work out a long-term bipartisan budget deal that addresses all issues. We will support a short-term CR for a few days to keep the government open while we stay in town and conclude our negotiations.  But we do not support perpetuating the current budgetary dysfunction that is hurting our country and our Commonwealth. The Republican leadership has to get serious about finding a budget deal and quit relying on short-term patches.

“This is the fourth CR since the start of the fiscal year and would take us into the fifth month of the year with no budget deal. One-month CRs hurt all spending priorities and create deep uncertainty.  This pain is particularly acute in Virginia, which is home to hundreds of thousands of government employees, kids who rely on CHIP, military families, and national security professionals. Recently, Defense Secretary Mattis came to the Senate and appealed to us that we not pass another CR but instead do a full budget deal. As Senators who represent the state most connected to the military, we know he is right and know these continued gimmicks hurt our troops in Virginia and across the globe.

“The current CR ignores key priorities — community health centers, permanent protection for Dreamers, emergency relief for Florida, Texas, western states ravaged by wildfires, Puerto Rico, the USVI, opioid treatment, and pension reform.  These issues are not going away and need to be addressed immediately. We gave negotiators time to reach a bipartisan agreement to protect Dreamers and now they have a deal. This must be part of the negotiations, and there should be a vote on the compromise – or a clean Dream Act – without further delay.

“Finally, the President’s repeated statements urging a government shutdown are beneath the office and have heightened the budgetary dysfunction.  And his determined efforts to blow up any and all bipartisan discussions around Dreamers demonstrate that he is not interested in governing. He has to decide whether he wants to be President and engage in necessary compromise, or continue offering commentary from the sidelines.”

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Morning Notes

NSF Starting Its Move to Alexandria — “Moving day for the first group of National Science Foundation workers relocating from the agency’s Ballston headquarters to Alexandria starts this weekend, more than four years — and more than a bit of controversy — after selecting the site for its new home.” [Washington Business Journal]

TSA Moving to Springfield — The headquarters of the Transportation Security Administration will be moving from Pentagon City to Springfield, after the GSA awarded a new 15-year, $316 million lease. The move is expected to take place in 2020. [Washington Business Journal]

Construction Activity at DCA — Construction is underway at Reagan National for the airport’s $1 billion expansion project. [NBC Washington]

‘Doc’ Muse Dies — “Leonard ‘Doc’ Muse, who for 65 years – from the era of Jim Crow to the election of an African-American president – watched over the Nauck community from his perch behind the counter of the Green Valley Pharmacy, died the weekend of Aug. 19-20. He was 94 years old.” [InsideNova]

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Beyer Blasts Trump’s ‘Shutdown’ Tweet

President Donald Trump tweeted this morning that the government needs “a good ‘shutdown'” in September.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who counts some 77,000 federal employees among his Northern Virginia constituents, wasted no time in responding. Beyer issued the following statement shortly after the president’s tweet.

There is nothing ‘good’ about a government shutdown that would furlough 800,000 federal employees indefinitely, including nearly 70,000 in Northern Virginia. The federal government does not turn on and off like a light switch. Critical medical and scientific research is put on hold; shipping container inspections at our ports are halted; Social Security and Medicare benefits are delayed and mortgages are missed.

I can think of no worse example of leadership than to call and hope for such an unmitigated disaster. President Trump might think this is the art of the deal, but it is not how government functions, not what the American people demand of their political leaders, and not what this country asked for in November.

Beyer represents more federal workers than any other member of Congress, according to his office.

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Beyer Wants to Guarantee Back Pay for Feds in a Government Shutdown

Federal employees should be guaranteed back pay in the event of a government shutdown, says Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).

Beyer and a fellow Virginia congressman, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), have proposed the “Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act.”

The bill “would guarantee back pay for all furloughed workers if Congress and the White House are unable to come to a funding agreement.” Currently, back pay must be approved by Congress and is not guaranteed.

“Shutting down the federal government threatens the livelihood of federal workers who carry out the nation’s vital missions,” Beyer said in a statement. “It’s inexcusable to play politics with their pay and the well-being of their households.”

While a government shutdown at the end of the week is possible, it’s looking increasingly likely that a deal will be reached to continue funding the government.

Twenty-two percent of employment in Arlington is classified as government employment.

The full press release about the bill, after the jump.

With time running out to keep the federal government open when funding expires, Virginia Congressmen Don Beyer (D-VA) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) have drafted legislation to protect federal employees’ pay in the event of a government shutdown.  The Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act would guarantee back pay for all furloughed workers if Congress and the White House are unable to come to a funding agreement.

“Shutting down the federal government threatens the livelihood of federal workers who carry out the nation’s vital missions,” said Rep. Beyer. “It’s inexcusable to play politics with their pay and the well-being of their households.”

A shutdown would temporarily suspend paychecks for federal employees, and retroactive pay for federal workers must be approved by Congress. The Beyer-Wittman legislation would guarantee that no federal employees lose pay if a government shutdown occurs.

“Federal employees should not suffer because Congress refuses to end its govern by crisis mentality,” Rep. Wittman said. “Preparing the retroactive pay legislation sends a signal to our federal workers that they won’t be forgotten in the unfortunate event of a shutdown. While this legislation minimizes the impacts of funding uncertainty, my focus remains on returning Congress to a regular schedule of budgeting and passing appropriations bills.”

Together the two Virginia Congressmen represent nearly 120,000 federal employees.

“AFGE would like to thank Congressman Beyer (D-VA) and Congressman Wittman (R-VA) for introducing the ‘Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act,'” said American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox. “Federal employees are hardworking public servants who are dedicated to providing quality public services.  Federal employees and their families should not be forced to go without pay when they are not allowed to do their jobs because Congress cannot pass a funding measure. Too many Americans–veterans, seniors, and other hardworking people rely on services provided by the federal government.  In a government shutdown, it is the American people who pay the price.”

Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday, April 28.

“Federal workers should not be punished if a shutdown occurs so it is good to know that Rep. Beyer and Rep. Wittman are working to make sure they are protected,” said Tony Reardon, National President of the National Treasury Employees Union. “Federal employees are middle-class taxpayers who shouldn’t be forced to go without pay just because of a political stalemate in Washington. This bill would make sure our nation’s civil servants are fully paid as soon as possible after the government reopens, which reduces the chances they’ll have to miss a house payment or run up credit card debt just to make ends meet.”

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Trump Budget Plan Worries Local Lawmakers

Aerial view of the Pentagon (Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman)President Trump’s first budget proposal and its ramped-up defense spending could help Arlington’s economy, according to experts, but local lawmakers worry that cuts elsewhere in the federal government could hurt.

Trump’s budget blueprint for fiscal 2018, entitled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” calls for $54 billion in additional defense spending.

The budget plan would cut federal funding to a swath of programs to help offset the increased defense spending, including a number that help lower-income residents.

That would likely mean a spending boon at the Pentagon, which has approximately 25,000 military and civilian occupants daily.

In addition, defense contractors based in the county could see more work go their way, as well as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, an Arlington-based Department of Defense agency.

Frank Shafroth, director of the Center for State and Local Government Leadership at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, added that DARPA work can be just as lucrative. DARPA “often subcontracts up to $7 for every dollar spent in house,” Shafroth said.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said the effects of decreased defense spending under President Obama, the result of the federal budget sequester, must be tackled but not in this way.

“We should be serious about addressing the fiscal issues in our country and work together to address the impact that the across-the-board spending cuts have had on the military and our national security,” Warner said in a statement. “However, the roadmap the President has laid out does not meet those goals.”

Of concern in Arlington is reduced spending on the State Department, which operates three D.C.-area field offices in Arlington. Trump’s plan would cut $10.1 billion from State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. That cut could force the closure or downsizing of those field offices, which handle security and investigations among other roles.

“Budgets show us a President’s priorities, and based on what President Trump released today, I’m concerned that he’s continuing to push policies that would hurt Virginians,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in a statement last week. “While I support the Administration’s commitment to investments in defense, deep cuts to the State Department jeopardize our national security.”

White House logoRep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said Trump’s cuts could hurt Northern Virginia and the rest of the country.

“President Trump wants to spend more on defense and border security while making huge cuts to what they defend: our people, our health, and our environment,” he said. “These extreme cuts will hit my constituents particularly hard, including many federal workers at the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency. But their pain will be felt across the entire country.”

Any gains on the defense side may be offset by losses elsewhere, as Trump’s budget plan seeks to shrink the federal workforce. With a hiring freeze already in place, further cuts could be coming.

Analysis by the Stephen S. Fuller Institute at GMU found that Northern Virginia could lose as many as 3,600 federal jobs, under the assumption that between 5.4 and 6.6 percent of all federal jobs in the region are lost.

And the analysis found that any gains in DoD and other departments may not be enough to lessen the impact of losses elsewhere.

Despite others’ gloomy predictions, Shafroth said he is optimistic that Arlington can weather any storms, given how central it is in defense spending.

“On net, especially given the serious situation with North Korea, I believe there will be major job disruption, but, at the end of the day the county’s critical role in national defense and the very large increase in federal spending will lead to disruption, but close to a net overall wash,” he said.

Flickr pool photo (top) by Michael Coffman

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Beyer: Federal Hiring Freeze Is Not Putting ‘America First’

Rep. Don Beyer in his Capitol Hill office (file photo)Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is blasting President Donald Trump’s executive order freezing federal government hiring.

Beyer said federal hiring freezes make government less effective, hurt state and local economies, and actually end up increasing costs to taxpayers.

Trump said his order excludes the military.

Beyer issued the following statement this afternoon.

The Trump administration’s decision to further scapegoat the federal workforce by freezing hiring is ineffective and damaging. Like previous actions of Congressional Republicans, complaints of ineffective government are being met with a strategy which makes government even less effective. This cycle is intentional, and state and local economies across the country will suffer for it. Weakening the ability of the federal government to carry out its crucial mission is not how you put ‘America first.’

85% of the nation’s civil service positions are based outside of the National Capital Region. The number of federal workers is at its lowest level since the 1960s, and over 30 percent will be eligible to retire in the next year. A report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) on previous federal hiring freezes stated such freezes are not an effective strategy for shrinking the size of the workforce, and only serve to disrupt agency operations and in the long-term increase the cost of government operations.

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Morning Notes

Wandering duck near Four Mile Run (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

CivFed Approves Marijuana Resolution — The Arlington County Civic Federation has approved a resolution in support of legalizing medical marijuana in Virginia. [WJLA, InsideNova]

Beyer Opposes ‘Holman Rule’ — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has joined other local legislators in opposing the proposed reinstatement of the “Holman Rule,” which would allow a legislator to offer an amendment that would “reduce the salary of any federal employee, or eliminate a federal employee’s position without hearings, testimony, or due process.” [Federal News Radio, House of Representatives]

Ray’s Hell Burger Still Among the Best — Rosslyn-based Ray’s Hell Burger is on Food & Wine’s list of the best burgers in the United States. [Food & Wine]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Federal Gov’t Closed Tuesday, County Gov’t to Open at Noon

"Climbing snowy Mt. Clarendon" (photo courtesy James Mahony)Federal employees will get another day off Tuesday, but Arlington County government employees will be heading back to work.

The Office of Personnel Management announced Monday night that federal offices would remain closed Tuesday, though “emergency and telework-ready employees required to work must follow their agency’s policies.”

Arlington County government offices, facilities and courts — with the exception of General District Court — are scheduled to reopen at noon on Tuesday.

“Unscheduled leave and telework options are encouraged for County employees, with supervisor’s approval,” the county noted in a press release.

Arlington public libraries will open at noon on Tuesday, but children’s programs are cancelled. Many Arlington parks and recreation programs are also cancelled. Schools remain closed.

Trash and recycling collection, meanwhile, is also still suspended, but may resume on Wednesday.

County snow crews and contractors are continuing to work around the clock to clear snow and ice from local streets.

“County crews are now deep into Phase 3 of snow cleanup operations, focusing on residential streets,” the press release said. “In many areas, crews have had to bring in heavy construction equipment to break through snow/ice banks at the ends of streets so plows can get in.”

“The goal is to get to all neighborhood streets by Tuesday night but it may take until Wednesday, Jan. 27, to reach some sections given the amount of snowfall and related conditions, including buried parked cars,” the press release continues. “County officials are asking residents for continued patience as enormous amounts of snow are removed from roadways and, in many cases, transported miles away.”

The county’s snow removal ordinance remains suspended “because of the massive amounts of snow that fell on area sidewalks.”

“No citations will be issued during the cleanup,” the county said. “However, the goals behind the ordinance remain… so all efforts to clear sidewalks for the community are appreciated.”

Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management warned that an overnight refreeze could make for treacherous driving early Tuesday morning. “Please use extra caution,” OEM urged in an Arlington Alert.

Among the county officials getting back to work on Tuesday will be members of the Arlington County Board.

“The Arlington County Board will convene as scheduled Tuesday, Jan. 26, at 3 p.m.,” said the county press release. “It will defer consideration of both the January Consent and Regular Agendas to the Recessed Meeting now scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28.”

Photo courtesy James Mahony

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Federal Government Closed Monday, Flights Resuming at Local Airports

Snow traffic cam Jan. 23(Updated at 7:55 p.m.) The federal government will be closed Monday, the Office of Personnel Management announced Sunday evening.

The feds join Arlington County government and public schools in closing Monday due to poor road conditions. Many neighborhood streets remain treacherous, covered with snow and ice that plows have yet to remove.

Arlington County trash and recycling collection service has been cancelled Monday and Tuesday.

ART bus service will be running sporadically Monday. The transit service says ART 41, 51, and 55 routes will run every 30 minutes from noon to 5 p.m. Monday. Other routes will remain suspended.

Reagan National and Dulles International airports, meanwhile, are reopening Monday, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said Sunday night.

The National Park Service announced Sunday that the northbound GW Parkway would remain closed between Spout Run and the Beltway until at least noon on Monday.

The full Monday closure message, from OPM:

*FEDERAL OFFICES* in the Washington, DC area are *CLOSED*. Emergency and telework-ready employees required to work must follow their agency’s policies, including written telework agreements.

/*Non-emergency employees*/ will be granted excused absence (administrative leave) for the number of hours they were scheduled to work unless they are:

* required to telework,
* on official travel outside of the Washington, DC area,
* on pre-approved leave (including leave without pay), or
* on an alternative work schedule (AWS) day off.

/*Telework-Ready Employees*/ who are scheduled to perform telework on the effective day of the announcement or who are required to perform telework on a day when Federal offices are closed must telework the entire workday or request leave, or a combination of both, in accordance with their agency’s policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements (as consistent with law).

/*Emergency Employees*/ are expected to report to their worksite unless otherwise directed by their agencies.

The press release from MWAA:

Reagan National and Dulles International will each have at least one runway open for flight operations beginning Monday morning, January 25.

We expect airlines to operate limited flight schedules at both airports throughout the day on Monday. Passengers should check with their airlines for information about their specific flights.

Snow crews at both Reagan National and Dulles International continue to work around the clock to clear runways, taxiways, roadways and parking lots in anticipation of the resumption of flights on Monday. Our priority is the safety of passengers and employees traveling to and from the airports. Travelers are encouraged to use caution when driving to the airports and plan extra time, as larger than normal crowds are possible.

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Local Lawmakers Laud Federal Spending Bill

U.S. Capitol domeArlington’s members of Congress are touting wins for federal workers, veterans, Metro and the Virginia economy in a new federal spending bill.

The bill, a rare bipartisan budget compromise, passed both houses of Congress this morning. It includes a raise for the federal workforce, $150 million for WMATA, $30 million for Arlington National Cemetery, and billions for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and various other military spending priorities.

The office of Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) described it as “good news for federal employees” in a press release.

There is finally some good news for federal employees in the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress this morning.  The $1.1 trillion spending package included a pay raise for federal employees and service members, as well as significant additional funding for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), some of which is earmarked for cybersecurity.

“Federal employees suffered through enough with years of wage stagnation, furloughs and shutdowns, and, perhaps most egregiously, the theft of their personal information as a result of the OPM hacks,” said Rep. Beyer.  “In addition to cybersecurity investments to prevent future breaches, this deal gives our federal workforce a modest 1.3 percent pay raise for the second year in a row.”

“These efforts will help improve the recruitment and retention of federal employees to help our government grow the new American economy,” Beyer added.

The agreement provides $272 million for OPM and the OPM Inspector General, a $132 million increase over the previous year. The legislation also provides $21 million for critical upgrades to OPM’s cybersecurity infrastructure and to ensure protections to prevent similar security breaches are installed. Individuals affected by the OPM data breaches will be provided with identity protection coverage for 10 years — much more than the previous commitment —  and identity theft insurance in the amount of $5,000,000.

After the jump, a joint press release from Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, including details of specific spending and tax provisions of note for Virginia residents, businesses and federal workers.

U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine applauded Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which provides discretionary funding for the entire federal government for the next fiscal year.

“The bipartisan budget deal helped pave the way for this legislation, which restores some of the most harmful sequester cuts and provides certainty to our military and to Virginia shipyards. It provides much-needed additional resources to improve cybersecurity across the federal government, including the Office of Personnel Management, and it gives the federal workforce and our federal retirees additional peace of mind of knowing that victims of the OPM hack can count on extended identity theft protection,” Warner said.  “While the bipartisan package supports many programs and priorities which are important to Virginians, I remain concerned that this legislation does little to address our nation’s longer-term fiscal challenges. I certainly hope the spirit of bipartisanship displayed by passage of this imperfect budget bill will result in a more fiscally responsible approach to budget issues in the new year.”

“I’m pleased this bill addresses arbitrary budget caps set by sequestration, invests in Virginia’s shipbuilders so they have certainty and stability and lends a helping hand to middle- to low-income families trying to make ends meet. Additionally, this bill provides full funding for a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC), which will be located at Fort Pickett, in recognition of the essential need to provide our diplomatic personnel the training they need to represent the United States in dangerous places overseas.  Though this bill isn’t perfect, I chose to support it because it funds programs that are critical to our nation’s security and success, and it will allow federal agencies to plan ahead. Most importantly, this is a compromise that will give budget certainty to families and businesses. The bipartisan character of this agreement will hopefully encourage more such cooperation,” Kaine said.

The following list includes many of the provisions Warner and Kaine advocated for on behalf of Virginia that were included in the Appropriations bill:

Navy Shipbuilding: The bill includes $18.7 billion for Navy shipbuilding and initiates the funding for construction of 11 new ships. The bill also continues the funding for the construction of the Ford-class air craft carriers, over $5 billion for construction of Virginia-class submarines, two destroyers, one amphibious ship and $1.4 billion for Ohio-class replacement submarines.

Military Construction: The bill provides $8.2 billion for military construction projects.  These funds support construction and renovation projects at military bases across the globe, including more than $450 million for 19 projects in Virginia. This includes $43.9 million for an Embassy Security Guard Housing and Operations Center in Quantico, $75 million for a Communications Center in Norfolk, $30 million for Arlington National Cemetery, $28 million for a Fuel Pier and Distribution Facility at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, $29 million for a National Guard and Reserve Center in Richmond, $24 million for an Equipment Facility at Fort A.P. Hill and $4 million in road improvements and a welcome center on Wallops Island.

Defense Operations and Maintenance: The bill includes $167 billion for operations and maintenance, including $39.6 billion for Navy Operations and Maintenance, a critical account for maintaining the readiness of naval assets and supporting Virginia’s ship repair industry. The bill also includes over $281 million in additional funding for commissaries and $608.6 million in additional funding that helps the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines begin recovering from readiness shortfalls due to more than a decade of sustained combat operations further complicated by sequestration.

Embassy Security: The bill provides $99 million for a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) pending a cost benefit analysis, which has already been completed. The funding represents strong Congressional support and recognition of the need to better protect our U.S. Embassy personnel in a heightened global threat environment. A GAO study released in September concluded that Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Virginia meets all four key requirements for a new facility. This followed a 2012 report from the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, an independent panel convened in the wake of the tragedy that recommended urgently moving forward with FASTC at Fort Pickett and a review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that resulted in the same conclusion – that Fort Pickett is the best site.

FBI Headquarters: The bill includes $390 million to begin the initial design, engineering and construction of a new fully funded consolidated headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). A site in Springfield is one of three under consideration by the General Services Administration for the new FBI headquarters.

Wallops Flight Facility, Langley Research Center & National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): The bill funds NASA at $19.28 billion, an increase of $1.27 billion above the FY15 enacted level. Within this total, the bill provides at least $7 million in FY16 appropriated funds for NASA Wallops to improve spaceport infrastructure through the 21st Century Launch Complex program. It also includes $389 million for overall NASA construction, which will allow NASA Langley to begin construction on a new state-of-the-art measurement systems lab.

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS): This bill funds UAS research at $17.6 million, a $5 million increase from last year, which will be used for research and testing on integrating UAS into the national airspace.  Virginia has one of six Federal Aviation Administration-designated test sites, the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership led by Virginia Tech.

9/11 First Responders and Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism: The bill renews health benefits for firefighters, police officers and other first responders who became sick because of toxic exposure at the sites of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including hundreds of Virginians, through 2090. It reauthorizes the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and creates a fund to compensate U.S. victims of state sponsored terrorism. Kaine and Warner co-sponsored the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to renew these benefits.

Cybersecurity:  The bill provides a total of $100 million in new funding for DHS for key cybersecurity improvements. The bill also includes $21 million to the Office of Personnel Management to address its cybersecurity needs following the data breaches announced in July 2015.  Language in the bill provides 10 years of identity theft protection ‎and insurance up to $5,000. The bill also includes the Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA), including a Warner provision to give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) greater authority to protect the federal government’s civilian .gov networks.

Intelligence Authorization Act: The bill includes the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2016. It would require the Director of National Intelligence to report to Congress on standards for measuring damage from attacks on computer networks, in order to craft a response. This legislation includes a Warner provision to require a comprehensive approach to the overhead satellite architecture that supports U.S. intelligence and defense programs.

Internal Revenue Service: The bill provides an additional $290 million for IRS to respond to taxpayer questions and improve fraud detection and prevention and cybersecurity.

Criminal Justice: The bill includes funding for programs to support law enforcement officers and improve police-community relations, including $476 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants and $70 million to support the purchase of body-worn cameras for police. 

Opioid and Heroin Abuse Crisis: The bill provides $7 million to fund anti-heroin task forces within the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. It also provides funding for Justice Department grant programs available to state and local governments for residential drug treatment, prescription drug monitoring and drug courts. The bill includes $70 million to fund the Centers for Disease Control’s state-based efforts to address prescription opioid abuse – more than triple the amount included in last year’s bill. The bill also increases funding to the  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration including $47 million directed to addressing epidemic of prescription drug and heroin overdose.

Seafood Industry and H-2B Visas: The bill includes a new provision that exempts some returning non-immigrant workers from counting towards the annual cap of H-2B visas. The provision also gives employers more flexibility in scheduling the arrival of workers to better meet the demands of their business needs. Virginia’s seafood industry relies on this program for seasonal workers and economic growth.

Pediatric Research: The bill includes $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Act, which authorizes pediatric research within the Common Fund at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The authorizing legislation was named for 10 year-old Gabriella Miller of Loudoun County who passed away from cancer in October of 2013.

Alzheimer’s Research: The bill includes $936 million for Alzheimer’s research, an increase of $350 million.

National Park Service: The bill provides $2.85 billion for the National Park Service, a 9% increase to support the 2016 centennial.

Land and Water Conservation: The bill provides $450 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and will fund additional programs within the Rivers of the Chesapeake Collaborative Landscape program.

Chesapeake Bay Program: The bill funds the Chesapeake Bay Program at $73 million and fully funds the Chesapeake Gateways & Trails program at $2 million.

American Battlefield Protection Program: The legislation fully funds this National Park Service program at $10 million. The program, which Kaine led the bipartisan effort to reauthorize in 2014, leverages private funds from states and landowners to preserve Civil War battlefields at risk of being lost to haphazard development.

Port of Virginia and Norfolk flood control: Included in the nearly $6 billion U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program is a flood control feasibility study for the City of Norfolk, which will lead to future eligibility for construction funding to ease recurrent flooding. The bill also funds a feasibility study for deepening Norfolk harbor and channels to 55 feet, which will enable the Port of Virginia to serve the deepest draft post-Panamax cargo vessels.

Career and Technical Education (CTE): State grant funding for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act was maintained at $1.12 billion for FY16. Kaine, co-chair of the Senate CTE Caucus, has supported the reauthorization of the Perkins CTE Act.

Early Childhood Education:  The bill includes $9.2 billion for Head Start, $570 million more than FY15. Early Head Start, including Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, will see an increase of $135 million. Additionally, the bill provides $250 million to continue support for the Preschool Development Grants program for states to develop and expand high-quality early learning programs. Virginia has received $17.5 million for the past two years and this funding will support the third year of Virginia’s four-year grant.

Teacher Quality Partnership Grants: The bill includes $43.09 million for Teacher Quality Partnership Grants, an increase of $2.5 million. The Richmond Teacher Residency Program, a partnership between Virginia Commonwealth University and Richmond Public Schools to train teachers to teach in high-need schools, is a recipient of the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants.

Apprenticeship Grant Program: The bill includes $90 million for a new Apprenticeship Grant program that will help states increase their capacity to register and oversee apprenticeship programs, help private companies launch apprenticeship programs and help community-based organizations better assist underserved populations and fund innovative apprenticeship opportunities.

Black Lung Clinics Program: The bill maintains funding at $6.76 million for the Black Lung Clinics Program which provides primary care, patient and family counseling and pulmonary rehabilitation

Federal Employee COLA: The bill allows the President’s proposal for a one percent pay increase for federal employees to take effect in January.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): The bill provides $91.3 billion in mandatory funding for the VA. Additionally, the bill provides $63.3 billion in FY17 advance funding for veterans’ health care and $103 billion for FY17 advance funding for the VA’s compensation and pensions mandatory accounts.

Veterans Opioid Abuse: To address mounting concerns about prescription drug abuse and an overdose epidemic among veterans, the bill directs the VA to adopt the opioid prescribing guidelines developed by the Centers of Disease Control, to develop IT systems to track and monitor opioid prescriptions, to ensure all VA medical facilities are equipped with opioid receptor antagonists to treat drug overdoses, and to provide additional training to medical personnel who prescribe controlled substances.

WMATA: Full funding of $150 million for WMATA grants, which will support capital improvements such as track safety and station upgrades, new train cars and other infrastructure that is overdue for maintenance that will improve Metro’s safety and reliability.

DATA Act: The bill provides $19 million to the Department of the Treasury for efforts to implement the DATA Act. The bipartisan DATA Act, landmark transparency legislation introduced by Senator Warner and signed into law in 2014, will allow taxpayers to track every dollar spent by federal agencies on a common website and help lawmakers more easily identify fraud, waste and abuse to create a more efficient government.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: The bill includes a $17 million increase for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It also includes a requirement that BLS report to Congress within one year on the “Bureau’s efforts to report on all forms of employment in the current economy,” including the contingent workforce.

Visa Waiver Program Reform: The bill includes a number of reforms that strengthen the Visa Waiver Program, including by requiring the collection of additional information from travelers before they arrive and by requiring countries to fully implement information sharing agreements with the U.S. Additionally, the bill requires individuals who have recently visited countries of concern to apply for visas before traveling to the United States.

Tax Provisions

Child Tax Credit (CTC): The bill provides $88 billion to permanently extend and expand the CTC, which is critical to helping middle- to low-income families with the cost of raising a child.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): The bill provides $30 billion to permanently extend an increased credit for working families

American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC): The bill provides $80 billion to permanently extend the AOTC, which helps students and families afford post-secondary education.

Research & Development Tax Credit: The bill provides $113 billion to permanently extend the Research and Development Tax Credit, which helps encourage business innovation and research. Included is a modification supported by Warner and Kaine to increase accessibility for startups.

Mass Transit Benefits: The bill provides $1.7 billion to permanently extend the increase in the monthly employer-provided transit and vanpool benefits from $130 to $250, which will help federal employees in their work commutes.

Energy Tax Provisions: Multi-year extensions of wind, solar, and alternative fuel credits and permanent extension of conservation easement tax credit.

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County Government, Courts Opening Delayed

Snow clearing operations in Pentagon City(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) Schools are closed today, and Arlington County government offices and courts will be opening at 11:00 a.m.

Other county facilities also have delayed openings. Libraries, except for the Plaza library, are hoping open at 1:00 p.m., according to Arlington’s closing and delays page.

The Arlington Mill Community Center will open at 1:00 p.m., while other community centers will open at noon or later, as scheduled, according to the county.

After earlier saying that trash and recycling collection would happen today and Saturday, the county now says it has been cancelled.

Due to hazardous road conditions, all solid waste services have been canceled: brush, cart repair, collection, special collections, etc. We will resume collections on Monday, March 9. Thursday and Friday customers will be serviced on their next collection day. Carts should be removed from the right-of-way. The Customer Call Center will open at 11 a.m.

The federal government, meanwhile, is opening on a two hour delay.

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Federal Gov’t, Arlington Public Schools Closed Tuesday

Arlington Public Schools logo(Updated at 10:05 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools and the federal government will be closed on Tuesday due to snow.

“All Arlington Public Schools and Offices will be closed on Tue, Feb. 17,” APS said in an email. “Essential personnel are to report to work at their scheduled time. Extracurricular activities, interscholastic games, team practices, field trips, adult and community education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds are canceled.”

All APS pools will also be closed on Tuesday.

Federal government offices will be closed Tuesday, per the Office of Personnel Management.

“FEDERAL OFFICES in the Washington, DC area are CLOSED,” OPM said on its website. “Emergency and telework-ready employees required to work must follow their agency’s policies, including written telework agreements.”

Arlington Transit buses, meanwhile, will operate at “severe service levels” on Tuesday.

“ART will operate only routes 41, 42, 45, 51, 77 & 87 on arterial streets Tuesday Feb 17 due to weather and street conditions. Expect delays,” ART said via email. “No service on S. Courthouse Rd, in Columbia Hts West, the Walter Reed hill, or north of Virginia Hospital Center. No other routes will be operated.”

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