The Arlington County Board on Saturday authorized staff to apply for up to $8 million in Northern Virginia Transportation Commission funding. Funding would offset the operating costs associated with running 10 buses per hour during peak times for two years along a new Metrobus route dubbed the 16M, connecting the Skyline complex in the Bailey’s Crossroads area of Fairfax County down Columbia Pike, to Pentagon City and Crystal City.
The report suggests that the county is preparing for an increase in ridership after the opening of the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2, despite work from home trends.
“The 16M service will provide a direct connection to Amazon HQ2 with its first phase of construction (2.1 million square feet of commercial space) coming on-line in Summer/Fall 2023,” per a county report. “This service will also take advantage of the recently built portions of Columbia Pike and [eight] new transit stations located on Columbia Pike.”
But recommendations to increase frequency along this route date back well beyond Amazon’s decision to move into Arlington, says Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors.
She says the request acts on a 2016 study, which “recommended creating a route connecting Skyline with Crystal City through Columbia Pike in anticipation of growth in Crystal City.” That followed the cancellation of the Columbia Pike streetcar project, which would have followed largely the same route.
“The study evaluated ridership forecasting, current service patterns, like bus and seat availability, and travel patterns, like trip lengths, ridership rates and traffic volume in the area to make the recommendation to increase frequency,” Pors said.
Sometime this spring, the new 16M route will begin revenue service with a base frequency of buses every 12 minutes during the service day. The new route will replace existing 16G/H service.
Pors said the average weekday ridership for the last four-and-a-half years along the 16G/H line peaked at a little over 4,500 average weekday riders before Covid, and is now about 60% recovered compared to pre-pandemic levels.
The informal, relationships-based advocacy at the core of the “Arlington Way” makes it harder for nonprofits led by and serving people of color to receive county funding, Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol says.
She tells ARLnow these concerns were raised by leaders of color, and she is working on a resolution — that could be voted on by the County Board this month — to change the status quo. The resolution will incorporate recommendations made by a small group of leaders representing local nonprofits.
At the top of their list is a fairly simple concept: a formal application process. Right now, Cristol says, the county uses an “ad hoc” process that doesn’t “live up to our values of transparency and access.”
Meanwhile, a decades-old, community-based program that identifies small infrastructure improvements is confronting a longstanding criticism — which leadership says is backed up by fresh data — of favoring projects in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods.
Community leaders presented updates on these efforts to the Arlington County Board last month. The moves are part of the county’s work to apply its 2019 equity resolution to policy-making and the newest contribution to the Board’s ongoing discussion of problems with the “Arlington Way,” the moniker given to the public process that informs policy-making.
The process often rewards those who are most civically active, connected and vocal about a given issue. But not always: it also frustrates those who follow the civic engagement playbook only to have the Board vote the other way.
“We heard some truthful feedback about how the ‘Arlington Way’ — for the many things it has achieved and its, at times, positive contributions to the community — also has some real downsides,” Cristol said in the Dec. 20, 2022 meeting. “It has been a way of doing things that lacked transparency and access, has prioritized relationships over fairness, and at times, it feels like it is reflective of predetermined outcomes.”
As part of the annual budget, the county awards grants of up to $50,000 or $100,000 for nonprofits serving low- and moderate-income residents, such as employment programs for people with disabilities, after-school programming for immigrant youth and financial planning assistance for families at risk of homelessness.
Leaders of local organizations say the county needs to do a better job of publicizing when funding is available and helping grassroots groups with the application process.
“This part was important for us, particularly for smaller organizations who don’t necessarily have the bandwidth or knowledge in the grant-making cycle that other larger organizations have,” said Cicely Whitfield, the chief program officer for the homeless shelter Bridges to Independence.
This could involve providing clearer deadlines and technical assistance, as well as feedback and workshop opportunities for nonprofits that are denied funding so they can apply successfully.
The group says the county should defer to organizations, which have a better sense of what the community needs, and ask for input on applications from people who would benefit.
Board Member Libby Garvey supported the changes but warned they could be controversial.
“There’s that saying, ‘I’m here from the government and I’m here to help you,’ and that’s supposed to be scary. It’s really because what it often means is, ‘I’m here from the government and I’m here to tell you what you need.'”
The sentiment applies to the Arlington Way, she says.
“We may find a little reaction from this, that ‘This is not the Arlington Way,'” she said. “We’re going to have to figure out ways to bring along everyone and explain… ‘This is going to be better and here’s why.’ We’re going to have work to do with the other part of the community that maybe is usually included.”
There is a three-decade-old program where the county acts on needs identified by residents: the Arlington Neighborhood Conservation Program, now known as the Arlington Neighborhoods Program (ANP).
The downside of this program is that it has “equity liabilities,” County Board Member Takis Karantonis said.
He said the model works for “community members who could afford to go to the meetings, who could afford to make a methodical evaluation of the state of sidewalks, or lack of sidewalks, or lack of public lighting… and fight for funding in a competitive but orderly manner.”
Although not a new criticism, ANP Chair Kathy Reeder provided the County Board with new data suggesting the program has disadvantaged less wealthy, more diverse neighborhoods.
A proposed bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians between Crystal City and the Southwest Waterfront area of D.C. has received $20 million in federal funding to move forward.
When complete, the 16-foot-wide shared-use path will connect Long Bridge Park and East and West Potomac parks via the Mount Vernon Trail.
On the Virginia side, the bridge will be located behind the Long Bridge Park Aquatics & Fitness Center (333 Long Bridge Drive), which opened last year. It will eventually provide a connection to the expanded and relocated Virginia Railway Express (VRE) station set to open in 2024.
Several local elected officials, including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey and Alexandria Vice-Mayor Amy Jackson, gathered this morning (Friday) at the aquatics center to hold an oversized $20 million check and celebrate the project, which could be completed by 2030.
“This is going to be a major gateway for Arlington that allows residents and visitors who walk, bike or roll to come to this beautiful facility and the environs around Long Bridge Park, but then be able to move on to Crystal City and National Landing and points beyond via the Mount Vernon Trail and the robust bicycle infrastructure that we are developing that will go all the way through to the City of Alexandria,” Dorsey said. “This helps meet Arlington and our region’s goals of moving more people with less automobile traffic. ”
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) secured the funding from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program, which was included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Warner co-wrote.
“I am thrilled to announce this new funding for the Long Bridge Pedestrian Crossing project. This $20 million investment was made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure law I was proud to help write and will help the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VRPA) complete a new span across the Potomac dedicated to cyclists and pedestrians,” Warner said in a statement. “This project is a key component of the broader effort to fix a major rail chokepoint and expand commuter and passenger service over the Potomac River.”
The shared-use bridge serves as environmental mitigation for the Long Bridge Project to add a two-track rail bridge next to the existing two-track 117-year-old Long Bridge, owned by the freight railroad company CSX Transportation. Once completed, the expanded railway is projected to bring an annual $6 billion in benefits to the region by 2040, according to a press release.
“We would never even be in the running [for funding for this project] if it weren’t for the infrastructure bill,” Warner told reporters after the event. “That’s got $58 billion additional dollars for passenger rail. We intend to make sure the District and Virginia get its share and it’s our hope the passenger rail bridge would open before the end of the decade.”
The goal of the $2 billion Long Bridge Project, discussions for which began in 2010, is to alleviate rail congestion on the existing Long Bridge. Annually, up to 1.3 million Amtrak passengers and 4.5 million VRE commuters traverse the bridge, in addition to CSX freight trains, according to a project website.
Officials say that the aging bridge is heavily utilized and frequently experiences bottlenecks, and — as if to prove their point — a freight train and an Amtrak train sped by within five minutes of each other during the media event.
Meanwhile, pedestrians and cyclists looking to cross the Potomac at this point have to navigate crossings shared with vehicles and maneuver a 10-foot-wide shared-use path on the 14th Street Bridge.
The lead agency on the project will be the VPRA, which the Virginia General Assembly created in 2020 to “promote, sustain and expand the availability of passenger and commuter rail service in the Commonwealth,” said VPRA Executive Director DJ Stadtler.
While elected officials heralded the new pathway over the Potomac, pedestrians and bicyclists in attendance told ARLnow that the 16-foot bridge is still too narrow to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians alike.
Stadtler told ARLnow that VPRA’s initial 10% complete designs proposed a 14-foot bridge, but in response to feedback, is widening it to 16 feet for the 30% complete designs. The agency has “considered all options” and has determined the current proposal is an appropriate width, he added.
There will be opportunities for the public to weigh in next spring.
During the event, Dorsey joked about the bridge width.
“What did you say, a 20-foot bridge?” he said, to cheers from cyclists in attendance.
From a new Columbia Pike library to a dedicated pickleball court, County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed 10-year $3.9 billion capital improvement plan would fund projects across Arlington.
The first 10-year plan for capital projects in four years would budget for infrastructure projects between 2023 and 2032. The CIP proposal, slated for adoption in July, is a 40% increase from the plan approved four years ago, Schwartz said in his presentation to the County Board Tuesday.
“This CIP proposal aims to address current and future capital needs in Arlington County as we emerge from the financial setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Schwartz said in a statement. “We want to focus on key planned investments in addition to following through on commitments from prior plans to benefit county residents and businesses long-term.”
Stormwater projects would receive $331.3 million in funding, including $77 million for Spout Run, $14.7 million for Torreyson Run, $28.5 million for Crossman Run and $49.5 million for Lubber Run — all flood mitigation efforts. Streams and water quality funding is proposed at $52.1 million and maintenance at $50.2 million.
While Metro remains one of the largest investments in the CIP, at $356.4 million, the proposal also outlines $1.8 billion in non-Metro transportation funding. This includes $16 million for Vision Zero street safety improvements program, $64 million for bridge replacements and renovations, and $89 million for bike and walk programs.
Other highlights include:
- Columbia Pike library replacement ($31.6 million)
- Planning for future investment at the Quincy Street site ($16.4 million)
- Army Navy Country Club Trail ($4.9 million)
- Maintenance and expansion of Capital Bikeshare program ($16.8 million)
- Continued funding for Columbia Pike transportation improvements, supporting the remaining reconstruction and the Transit Station program ($117 million)
- Bridge replacements and renovations, including replacing the W. Glebe Road and Mt. Vernon (Arlington Ridge Road) bridges and design and construction of Shirlington Road Bridge ($64 million)
- Construction of new entrances to the Ballston ($147.5 million) and Crystal City ($91.4 million) Metro stations and investment in the transitway extension to Pentagon City and Potomac Avenue ($33 million)
The proposed CIP includes new park programs that focus on emerging needs and natural resiliency, a new fire station on the west end of Columbia Pike, and facilities consolidation to enable remote work for county staff.
Schwartz said the needs of the county have changed since the last 10-year CIP, as the county is in “a world shaped by the pandemic where we do our business differently.”
Michelle Cowan, deputy county manager overseeing the Department of Management and Finance, noted during the presentation that the finance department works entirely remotely now, potentially a harbinger of a money-saving reduction in the county’s office footprint.
“We have reduced our footprint which… allows us then to do some really strategic consolidations that you’ll hear about in other county buildings that could get us out of some aging assets,” Cowan said.
The CIP will continue to fund debt service obligations for the investment in housing at Barcroft Apartments, construction of Fire Station 8, which is scheduled to be completed in fall 2023, and the design and planning process for the proposed Arlington boathouse.
Preliminary construction funding for the lower boathouse site is included in the later years of the CIP.
This CIP returns funding levels for the Arlington Neighborhoods Program, formerly the Neighborhood Conservation Program, which are projects identified by individual neighborhoods and include street improvements, streetlights, parks, beautification and sidewalks. The program had steep cuts in previous CIPs.
The 2023-32 CIP proposal would provide $85.2 million in funding to the program. That includes $4 million of funding for projects in fiscal years 2023 and 2024, and would increase to $9 million in 2030 and 2031, Director of Management and Finance Maria Meredith said.
Planning for Fmr. Inner Ear Site — “Arlington Cultural Affairs is working with public art and placemaking firm Graham Projects to design a future arts space at 2700 S. Nelson Street/2701 S. Oakland Street in Green Valley, and we are looking for your inspiration and input. A flexible, outdoor open space is planned for the site, which will be designed following the planned demolition of the existing building this fall. In the meantime, we want YOUR thoughts and ideas!” [Arlington County]
Big Money for Growing Local Company — “Arlington’s Federated Wireless Inc. has raised an additional $14 million in a second closing of its latest round of funding — bringing the raise’s total to $72 million — as it looks to augment the private wireless market.” [Washington Business Journal]
Refugee Wins Reprieve in Court — “In a brief ruling from the bench that surprised both sides with its speed, Circuit Court Judge William T. Newman Jr. in December declared Khoy’s plea vacated. Khoy reached for her lawyer’s arm in disbelief. Was the nightmare really over?” [Washington Post]
Events to Mark Civic Association Anniversary — “The John M. Langston Citizens Association will celebrate the 85th Anniversary of the organization with a series of events during the weekend of May 13th through 15th. The Opening Program on Friday, May 13th at the Langston-Brown Community Center will feature recognition of the 28 plaintiffs from the Thompson v. Arlington School Board 1958 court case who were denied entrance to white schools, when the Stratford Four… were admitted on February 2, 1959.” [HallsHill.com]
SoberRide for Cinco de Mayo — “Offered by the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), the 2022 Cinco de Mayo SoberRide® program will be in operation beginning at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 5th (Cinco de Mayo) and operate until 4:00 a.m. on Friday, May 6th as a way to keep local roads safe from impaired drivers during this traditionally high-risk period.” [WRAP]
Circulator Strike Planned — “Fed up with a lack of progress in contract talks and unfair labor practices, the bus drivers for the DC Circulator, employed by RATP Dev, will be on strike tomorrow morning, Tuesday, May 3rd and will stay out until an agreement is reached.” [ATU Local 689]
It’s Tuesday — Partly sunny during the day, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 8 p.m. High of 75 and low of 56. Sunrise at 6:09 am and sunset at 8:04 pm. [Weather.gov]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Update at 4 p.m. on 3/15/22 — President Joe Biden has signed a $1.5 trillion spending bill with funding for three projects in Arlington.
In the 10 months it took for the funding to pass, Arlington County substantially completed two of the projects: repaving parts of the Bluemont Junction Trail and replacing a pedestrian bridge in Glencarlyn Park.
The county moved forward with them in the interim due to safety concerns and the uncertain nature of federal funding, Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow on Tuesday.
The funding will pay for any remaining work and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is considering how to repurpose any unspent funds on similar projects, she said.
Earlier: A $1.5 trillion spending bill that cleared Congress on Friday has funding for three projects in Arlington.
The bill includes $13.6 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine’s fight against Russia and will fund the federal government through September, avoiding an impending government shutdown. Now the 2,741-page bill is headed to the desk of President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it this week.
The bill also sends Arlington County more than $1.4 million to pay for a health initiative and two parks projects, for which Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) requested federal assistance last May. In total, the spending package has $5.4 million earmarked for 10 projects in Northern Virginia, at Beyer’s request.
“This funding will translate to significant, beneficial projects in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax County,” he said in a statement on Friday. “I am thankful to my colleagues who enacted the legislation to fund these initiatives, and to the local leaders who worked with me to identify and develop the initial requests. These projects will make a real, positive difference in our region.”
Arlington County’s Department of Human Services is getting $390,000 to purchase two medically equipped vehicles for a forthcoming mobile crisis response team. While not yet in existence, the team will be responsible for responding to behavioral health crises and providing on-site treatment.
The team was a recommendation of the Police Practices Group, which identified about 100 ways policing could be reformed in Arlington, including some ways the county could remove police officers from its mental health crisis response.
The county earmarked $574,000 in the current budget to staff the team with a physician’s assistant, nurse and clinician, and to buy a transport van and operating supplies.
DHS spokesman Kurt Larrick says the vehicles will be purchased once the County Board officially accepts and allocates the federal funding, which will take a couple of months. The mobile crisis response team, meanwhile, is “not up and running yet,” he said.
“County residents do have access to Community Regional Crisis Response services, however, which is a mobile crisis response,” he said. “And our Emergency Services staff can and do go into the community when need arises and staffing allows.”
The county will receive $325,000 to fund repaving and repairs for a segment of the Bluemont Junction Trail and adjacent connector paths. A 2018 trails assessment determined the Bluemont Junction Trail needed significant investments, as the condition of the asphalt is deteriorating in many sections.
The section paid for by the federal government spans the intersection of N. George Mason Drive and Wilson Blvd to the intersection of the trail with the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.
This project is divided into two phases, according to the county. The first phase, completed late last year, updated the main trail and most of its connecting paths. The second phase will update three remaining trail connectors, which need to be realigned to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Phase two construction is expected to begin and end this spring and early summer.
Arlington budgeted $550,000 in its 2022-24 Capital Improvements Plan for the project.
The county will also receive $800,000 for the replacement of a pedestrian bridge in Glencarlyn Park. The bridge, lost during the July 2019 flash flooding, was recently installed. The project was part of the adopted 2021 Capital Improvements Plan.
Outside of Arlington, local earmarks in the bill will support storm sewer and climate resilience improvements in the City of Alexandria and Falls Church City and improve information technology services in Fairfax County. It will also support a pilot program for the deployment of body-worn cameras in the Alexandria Police Department and safety improvements to the GW Parkway.
Big Raise for Ballston Startup — “Federated Wireless, the leader in shared spectrum and CBRS technology, today announced that it has secured $58 million in Series D funding. An affiliate of Cerberus Capital Management, L.P. led the round, with existing investors Allied Minds and GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, also participating.” [Federated Wireless]
Library Spotlights Segregation History — “A new window display at Aurora Hills Library spotlights efforts of some local residents to promote education and literacy during a time of rigid racial segregation across Virginia. The display focuses on the Henry L. Holmes Library, which was founded by Arlington’s African-American community in 1940 and served as the only library resource for the community until the county’s library system was integrated in the late 1940s.” [Sun Gazette]
Bakery Ramping Up for Mardi Gras — “Chef David Guas at Bayou Bakery is ready for Mardi Gras serving up his famous King Cake… The deadline to order your King Cakes is this Saturday.” [WJLA]
It’s Wednesday — Scattered showers before 10 am. Cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with wind gusts up to 21 mph. High of 67 and low of 42. Sunrise at 6:50 am and sunset at 5:56 pm. [Weather.gov]
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.
“Shift5’s experienced founding team with deep national and cybersecurity experience, plus early success, makes the company a standout in the industry,” Nick Sinai, a senior advisor at Insight Partners who will join Shift5’s board, said in a statement. “We’re excited to work with Shift5 as it fills a crucial space in defending national infrastructure.”
Shift5 intends to use the funding to new products and hire new employees to keep pace with demand for its services across transportation and national defense industries. It works with some notable clients, including the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command.
The Rosslyn-based startup, headquartered at 1100 Wilson Blvd, currently offers a platform that identifies the weak points in the systems making planes, trains and militaries run, and wards off cyber threats. It began selling this product last year, and reported netting tens of millions of dollars in revenue.
The commitment to hiring staff comes after the company doubled the size of its team in 2021.
Airlines, train operators and militaries often rely on outdated operational technology to power their fleets, according to Shift5. As more of these operational systems get connected to the Internet, they become more vulnerable to cyber attacks — which can cost them millions of dollars in losses, remediation and ransom payments.
And soon, they may have a human cost, as these attacks could result in injuries and deaths by 2025, according to research firm Gartner.
Cyber threats are becoming more commonplace, and demand for Shift5’s services is rising, the company says. Recent attacks have targeted pipelines and surface transportation, including New York’s public transit authority and a major port in Houston. Hacks into maritime operational technology have increased by 900% since 2017 and, overall, the transportation industry witnessed a 186% increase in weekly attacks from 2020 to 2021.
“If the past year has proven anything, it’s that the leading defenders in rail, aviation, and national defense see the prescient risks and are mobilizing to get ahead of costly damages,” said Shift5’s President Joe Lea in a statement. “We look forward to partnering with Insight Partners as we continue to grow and defend.”
This week was yet another filled with plenty of news about snow, but unlike previous January weeks not a lot of actual snow.
Using its last traditional snow day allotment, Arlington Public Schools closed Thursday for what turned out to be a bust — a rainy, cold day. Lucky for students looking to enjoy the weather when school’s closed, this weekend should at least be sunny, albeit a little cold, in Arlington.
Now, here are the most-read Arlington articles of the past week.
- Feds release new details about Jan. 6 weapons cache at Arlington hotel
- JUST IN: Winter Weather Advisory issued ahead of Thursday morning snow
- BREAKING: APS closes schools Thursday due to expected snow
- Morning Poll: Should APS continue to require masks in schools?
- The shift from rain to snow delayed in Arlington, NWS decreases possible accumulation
- Guaranteed income pilot program moves forward without any county funding
- NEW: Covid cases falling in Arlington, following regional trends
- Winter Restaurant Week to feature 18 Arlington restaurants
- ‘Old Lee Highway’ gets new name: Cherry Hill Road
- JUST IN: APS says masks still required for students, despite Youngkin’s order
Feel free to discuss those stories or anything else of local interest in the comments. Have a great weekend!
A local pilot program to give up to 200 qualifying low-income residents $500 a month for two years, no strings attached, will move forward without any public funding.
For a few months last fall, Arlington County was poised to spend either federal or county money on “Arlington’s Guarantee,” a guaranteed income pilot program launched by nonprofit Arlington Community Foundation.
This commitment fell through, however, when the county and ACF realized any infusion of public funding would have put participants at risk of losing their government benefits, such as child care subsidies or food stamps.
“It would put them back instead of putting them forward,” says Anne Vor der Bruegge, ACF’s Director of Grants and Initiatives.
She and Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick call this income precipice the “benefits cliff.” The little additional income would make the fall particularly painful in Arlington given its high cost of living.
“The issue was that in order to give money to recipients and then not push them off the benefits cliff — where, for example, they lose SNAP because they make too much income — and to make the net effect of receiving the cash zero, we had to get a waiver from the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS),” Larrick said.
He added that with the waiver, the monthly stipend “would not count as income in the calculation of benefits, and no one who joined the program would lose benefits by being ‘over income.'”
But this waiver only works if the program is 100% privately funded. Last year, the county and ACF learned that neither the county’s original plan to use American Rescue Plan Act funding nor its revised plan to use unspent funds from the 2021 fiscal year would have worked.
“The County decided to rescind the plan to give ARPA money so as to not negatively impact the recipients,” he said. “Using closeout funds would have created the same issue.”
ACF’s wide donor base ensures this loss of funding won’t impact the program’s trajectory, says Vor der Bruegge, but it may slow it down slightly.
“We had intended all along for it to be privately funded from the get-go: that is, through individual people, philanthropic organizations and corporate dollars,” she said, adding that the ARPA funding “evolved as an opportunity we didn’t plan for or seek out.”
County contributions would have allowed ACF to enroll all 200 participants immediately, she says. Now, ACF will resume its plan to continue accepting donations until it reaches 200 participants.
So far, 105 residents are receiving money directly onto debit cards through the program. ACF will continue expanding enrollment in groups of 25, as funding becomes available, up to 200 people. Donations benefit participants directly, says Vor der Bruegge, as ACF obtained a grant to cover the program’s operating costs.
The “benefits cliff” issue is not exclusive to Arlington.
Vor der Bruegge says it hurt nascent guaranteed income programs across the state and nation that were counting on ARPA funding, she said. These programs are proliferating right now because federal stimulus checks normalized the idea of automatic payments to residents — and many were latching onto ARPA funding.
Now, they’re having to “go back to the drawing board,” she said, adding that some states are introducing legislation to override this unintended consequence.
“It is pretty prevalent across the country,” she said.
Arlington County is set to receive more than $3 million to entice tourists to visit Arlington and help the hard-hit tourism industry recover from the pandemic.
The county’s tourism division, Arlington Convention and Visitors Service (ACVS), would use the $3.25 million grant for advertising, media outreach, marketing research, promotional events and tourism development to support the travel and hospitality industry, according to a county report.
The Arlington County Board is set to consider the grant during its meeting this Saturday. The Virginia Tourism Corporation awarded ACVS the money through the American Rescue Plan Act Tourism Recovery program, but the County Board must approve the funding.
In November, the Board cited this grant as the reason it did not consider direct financial support to hotels in its allocation of about $9 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds, which went toward housing assistance, expanding critical behavioral health services, meal distribution for senior citizens and more affordable child care options, among other initiatives.
Board members said the ACVS grant will instead help hospitality workers through training and job search support.
“Unfortunately, unlike the ARPA funds Arlington County received earlier from the Commonwealth, [the ACVS] funds can’t be used for grants or other direct financial support to our hotels, which is what we continue to hear would be the most impactful for their recovery and for maintaining sustainable, predictable compensation for their employees,” Arlington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kate Bates told ARLnow.
In Arlington Economic Development’s survey of local hotels, employee pay and benefits was the top spending priority across hotels of all sizes, Bates said.
“Moreover, employment data show that Arlington has lost about half of its hotel workforce during the pandemic,” she said.
ACVS has gathered input on how to use the grant funding from representatives of Arlington hotels, the Chamber of Commerce, local Business Improvement Districts, the Clarendon, Columbia Pike and Langston Boulevard neighborhood partnerships, Arlington Economic Development and the Department of Parks and Recreation, the report said.
The conversations are expected to continue over the 30 months the grant will be distributed.
“The funds are designated specifically for marketing Arlington as a destination to generate visitor spending, and I’m confident that Emily Cassell and the great team at ACVS will develop a plan to successfully do that, with continued feedback from the hotels along the way,” Bates said.