Arlington, VA

Are you a communications staffer with the federal government, or any other federal employee who’s furloughed and has news-writing experience?

If so, ARLnow wants you.

Thanks to our Patreon community, ARLnow is now commissioning longer, community-focused articles from local freelance writers. (And with additional reader support, we could be doing more.) With the shutdown still going on, we’d like to help out by commissioning articles from federal employees who can use the supplemental income.

So if you are furloughed and have a local Arlington story to pitch, email us at [email protected] and let us know what you’d like to write about — anything from human interest feature stories to explorations of local issues or policies. Also please include links to an article or two you’ve written in the past.

We can publish the article under a pseudonym, if need be, given any such restrictions at your federal agency.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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As the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history continues without an end in sight, Arlington officials are continuing to offer help to federal government workers missing out on paychecks.

Two events scheduled for later this week are meant to reduce financial burdens facing furloughed workers.

The Arlington Public Library system plans to host a workshop on Thursday (Jan. 17) to help furloughed federal employees with their budgets and access county resources.

Entitled “Finding Help During Difficult Financial Times,” the workshop will provide how-to’s on the following:

After the presentation, Latrice Robinson, a financial coach and contractor who is a part of the CFPB Financial Coaching Program, will be on hand to answer any questions, along with AFAC Client Services Manager Lily Duran and outreach staff from the Public Assistance Division in DHS.

The workshop will take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Barbara M. Donnellan Auditorium in the Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street).

Arlington Public Schools also announced today (Tuesday) that it will hold a job fair on Friday (Jan. 18) for federal employees interested in substitute teaching.

The job fair will run from noon to 4 p.m. at the Syphax Education Center (2110 Washington Blvd). Participants should bring two forms of identification to the job fair and are encouraged to submit their application beforehand.

File photo

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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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Morning Notes

Free Pet Food for Furloughed Feds — Kriser’s Natural Pet, which has stores in the Courthouse area and the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center, is giving a free bag of food for anyone affected by the shutdown who shows a government ID. [Tysons Reporter]

County Clears Trash from TR Island Lot — With National Park Service maintenance workers furloughed, Arlington County crews helped clear overflowing trash from the Theodore Roosevelt Island parking lot last week. [Twitter]

County Opens ‘Safe Haven’ for Families — “The Arlington County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Services Unit is pleased to announce the grand opening of its Safe Havens Supervised Visitation and Exchange Center. Located at the Department of Human Services at 2100 Washington Blvd., the program will serve families who have been affected by domestic violence.” [Arlington County]

McAuliffe Vs. Stamos — Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has endorsed defense attorney Parisa Tafti over incumbent Theo Stamos in the race for Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney. All three are Democrats, but McAuliffe is still upset that Stamos “joined Republicans in arguing to the state Supreme Court that his mass rights restoration was unconstitutional.” The endorsement has earned a rebuke from Alexandria’s former Commonwealth’s Attorney, who called it “sad.” [Washington Post, Washington Post]

More Money Woes for Arlington Startup — “Danny Boice, the CEO and founder of private investigation company Trustify Inc., allegedly used company money to pay for personal expenses, including $600,000 for a documentary film about him and his wife, Jennifer Mellon, according to a new lawsuit filed by former Trustify employees seeking back pay and other damages.” [Washington Business Journal]

Forum to Discuss Dementia — “A community forum on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 23 from 6:45 to 8:45 p.m. at Shirlington Library.” [InsideNova]

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If the government shutdown has you taking an involuntary vacation, Arlington County might be able to lend a hand in paying the bills.

The county says furloughed government employees struggling to pay utility bills can now apply for a “payment arrangement that will allow you to extend your payment without the accrual of any late fees.”

“Those affected by the shutdown have it bad enough already,” Peter Golkin, a spokesman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services, told ARLnow. “The county doesn’t want to make it worse with complications.”

Anyone interested in taking advantage of the program can call the county’s customer service center at 703-228-6570 to see if they qualify. Golkin said federal workers will simply need to “explain their circumstances, provide account information and we’ll take it from there case-by-case.”

As the shutdown enters its 20th day, roughly half of the 800,000 civilian government workers across the country are currently barred from working.

Most will miss their first paycheck of the shutdown tomorrow (Friday), and there seems to be no end in sight to the battle over President Trump’s coveted border wall.

Trump made headlines by storming out of a negotiation with Democratic leaders last night, leaving little hope for a quick resolution.

Should the shutdown continue through Saturday, it will be the longest one in the nation’s history.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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As President Trump weighs the extraordinary step of declaring a national emergency to unilaterally build a wall along the southern border, Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District) is urging Trump to return to the negotiating table and put federal employees back to work.

Like any member of Congress representing the D.C. suburbs, Beyer is no great fan of government shutdowns, which threaten the livelihoods of thousands of constituents in his Arlington and Alexandria-area district. But this latest, 18-day shutdown (now the second longest in the country’s history) is testing Beyer’s patience more than most.

He can’t understand what Trump hopes to achieve with his demands for $5.7 billion to build a wall on the Mexican border, or why he’s worked with Congressional Republicans to shutter the government while this latest immigration debate plays out. Unlike some of his Democratic colleagues, Beyer feels there’s room to negotiate on the issue — but he remains puzzled by the president’s refusal to engage on the matter.

“I know Donald Trump didn’t write the ‘Art of the Deal,’ but he may not have read it either,” Beyer told ARLnow. “I don’t think Democrats are against spending $5 billion more on border security, but let’s work hard on the language to make sure it turns into something that actually makes a difference, rather than something that’s a campaign symbol… Maybe I spent too many years as an auto dealer, but I’m always looking for a win-win scenario.”

Beyer believes that Democrats in Congress could well be open to reviving the outlines of a bipartisan immigration deal hashed out among leaders last year, exchanging new funding for border security for new protections for people previously protected from deportation under the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program. Yet Trump and other immigration hardliners in his party scuttled that arrangement the last time Congress squared off over the issue, and Beyer doesn’t see much reason for optimism this time around.

Furthermore, Beyer sees Trump’s intimations that he could use his emergency powers as president to bypass Congress and build the wall as “frightening.” Such an effort would undoubtedly face court challenges, as experts agree that there is no migration crisis currently afflicting the country, but speculation abounds that Trump could make an emergency declaration during his televised address from the White House tonight.

“It just ratchets up the tension and dissension far more than is appropriate,” Beyer said. “If the wall was so important, why did it take two whole years into his presidency before he put it into an appropriations bill? This is no national emergency.”

But should the shutdown continue, Beyer says his newly empowered colleagues in the House plan to “make it as easy as possible to open the government back up.” Starting today (Tuesday), he says Speaker Nancy Pelosi will begin calling votes on bills to reopen one federal agency at a time.

That way, Beyer hopes that some important staffers — like those at the IRS preparing to mail out tax returns — could get back to work, even as the immigration debate drags on.

And that sort of tack would also allow many of Beyer’s constituents to start earning paychecks again.

He says he’s heard from thousands of federal workers, both in the D.C. area and around the country, who are suffering due to financial insecurity stemming from the shutdown. To that end, Beyer managed to help pass language to protect back pay for affected employees through the House, but fears Trump wouldn’t sign off on the change, even if it clears the Senate.

Beyer’s also backing efforts to secure pay for some federal contractors, as are Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (both D-Va.).

“Many people go into federal service because they cherish the idea of public service,” Beyer said. “No one does it for the money. The security is one of the small benefits. Or, at least, it used to be.”

Yet Beyer feels the shutdown is doing more than just unnecessarily squeezing his constituents — he believes its distracting Congress from other pressing priorities, particularly as Democrats regain control of the House for the first time in years.

Whenever Congress can return to normal business, Beyer thinks there is room for some agreement on bills he’s backing around issues like suicide prevention and wildlife conservation.

But he is cognizant of the fact that the Republican-controlled Senate, to say nothing of Trump’s veto pen, will limit how much he can actually pass over the next two years. That’s why he’s more enthusiastic about the new oversight powers Democrats gain now that they’re chairing House committees.

Beyer helped lead investigations into former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s conduct in office, and was one of Pruitt’s leading congressional critics before he resigned under a cloud of scandal. But Beyer is no great fan of Pruitt’s replacement, Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist.

Accordingly, he sees plenty of room for more EPA oversight now that Democrats will wield expanded investigatory power, though he did sound a note of caution on the topic.

“It’s really important that oversight be genuine oversight, focused on things not going well in the executive branch rather than political witch hunts,” Beyer said. “There are lots of legitimate, responsible things we can do in oversight to just make America a better country, and we can do it with Republicans.”

Pelosi and other Democratic leaders will also command more control over the federal budget, and that gives Beyer hope for progress on one of his other big priorities: solving the vexing problem of aircraft noise in Arlington.

Beyer previously proposed budget amendments directing the Federal Aviation Administration to tinker with the flight paths of military helicopters and create a new website to allow people to report aircraft noise complaints. Yet both of those failed to gain any traction under Republican leadership, and he’s holding out hope to make progress on these “two good legislative investments” in the coming months.

“With people like [Majority Leader and Maryland Rep.] Steny Hoyer in control, he’s a D.C. resident, I’m much more optimistic that we will the have power to make a difference on this,” Beyer said.

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Morning Notes

Kevin Spacey Pulled Over at DCA — “After appearing in court Monday morning to address sexual assault allegations in Massachusetts, actor Kevin Spacey had yet another brush with law enforcement in the afternoon, this time around Reagan National Airport.” [TMZ, WTOP]

Family Trio All Serves on ACPD — “33 years ago, Corporal Diane Guenther swore she’d never date another police officer. Police Lieutenant Mark Guenther persuaded her otherwise, and they married a year after they started dating. Their daughter, Harley, just celebrated two years as an Arlington County police officer.” [WDVM]

Police Holding Outreach Meetings — The Arlington County Police Department’s latest quarterly outreach meetings will be held at the Fairlington Community Center on Thursday, Jan. 24 and at Arlington Central Library on Tuesday, Jan. 29. Both meetings start at 7 p.m. [Twitter]

Group to Hold Forum on Entrepreneurship — “The Arlington branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) will feature a program on starting a business, led by the founders of Amazing Women Entrepreneurs. The meeting is slated for Monday, Jan. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 527 of Arlington Mill Community Center. The community is invited.” [InsideNova]

Federal Workers Driving for Uber to Make Ends Meet — “‘With the government shutdown, you have more people working for the government doing Uber, and for the full-time Uber drivers, that is really affecting us too, and our money,’ said rideshare driver Nate Murrell.” [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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Morning Notes

Christmas Tree Pickup Underway — For residents eligible for Arlington County’s trash collection service, the special curbside Christmas tree service is currently underway. Trees will be hauled away on the regular trash collection day through Jan. 11 and turned into mulch. [Arlington County]

Shutdown Could Hurt Local Businesses — “In Greater Washington, that could mean about 40 percent of approximately 362,000 federal workers — about 145,000 — would not receive roughly $15 million per day in pay, according to rough estimates… The shutdown is likely to hit industries that depend heavily on the discretionary spending of federal workers and contractors.” [Washington Business Journal]

Would-Be Local Amazon Locations — Among the places Amazon could have gone to in Northern Virginia, if it did not pick the Pentagon City and Crystal City area for its new office campus, were Alexandria near the Eisenhower Metro station and Rosslyn, with a prominent skyline view along the Potomac. [Washington Business Journal]

Ads on Virginia School Buses? — “Advertising on the back end of school buses? It could be coming to the Old Dominion. The state legislature again this session will consider a proposal by Del. Israel O’Quinn (R-Bristol) allowing school districts to place commercial advertising between the rear wheels and the rear of the bus.” [InsideNova]

Metro Touts Fewer Fires — “Metro will end 2018 with the lowest number of insulator-related smoke/fire incidents in years – 66 percent fewer compared to 2016 – despite record rainfall this year. Water infiltration in Metro’s tunnels has historically been the leading cause of such incidents.” [WMATA]

Pre-Boarding Snafu at DCA — “A couple says their holiday trip to Virginia was ruined by a traumatic incident on their flight home. A disabled husband was forced to pre-board alone, while his sick wife had to stay behind at the gate” for a Southwest Airlines flight at Reagan National Airport. [Fox 5]

Flickr pool photo by Maryland Nomadic

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Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is calling the bipartisan budget deal, which passed early Friday morning after a five-hour government shutdown, “good for the country and good for Virginia.”

The deal, which adds billions of dollars in federal spending for military, disaster relief, and domestic programs, comes weeks after a historic package of tax cuts championed by President Trump and the GOP was signed into law.

Kaine is touting several portions of the spending bill as Virginian victories, such as the $3 billion for 2018 and 2019, respectively, that the budget sets aside to tackle the national substance abuse epidemic. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has been funded for an additional four years, which a press release from the Senator’s office states will benefit 66,000 Virginian children.

A two year funding extension of federally-qualified community healthy centers was included in the spending bill. The Senator’s press release states that “approximately 300,000 Virginians receive health care at more than 100 community health center locations in underserved communities” across the state.

“I am proud to have worked with a bipartisan group of my colleagues last month on negotiations to reopen the government that led us toward this deal, but our work isn’t done. We now must build on this bipartisan progress and immediately proceed to debate and pass legislation that permanently protects Dreamers,” stated a press release quoting Kaine.

The bill ends military sequestration, which Kaine says has been “painful” to Virginia’s military community. It also increases national security and military spending by $80 billion in 2018 and $85 billion in 2019. Domestic spending will be increased by $63 billion in 2018 and $68 billion in 2019, which will fund education, health, and non-defense national security programs.

Other Virginia “wins” cited by Kaine, via press release, include:

  • Veterans – $2 billion for FY 18 and $2 billion for FY 19 to reduce the VA health care maintenance backlog
  • Child Care – $2.9 billion for FY 18 and $2.9 billion for FY 19 for child care, including for the Child Care Development Block Grant program;
  • Higher Education – $2 billion for FY 18 and $2 billion for FY 19 for programs that aid college completion and affordability, including those that help police officers, teachers, and firefighters;
    Drug Addiction and Mental Health – $3 billion for FY18 and $3 billion for FY19 to combat the substance abuse epidemic;
  • Infrastructure: Transportation, Clean Water and Broadband – $10 billion for FY 18 and $10 billion for FY 19 to invest in infrastructure, including programs related to rural water and wastewater, clean and safe drinking water, rural broadband, roads, rail and bridges;

Photo via Sen. Tim Kaine’s office

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Morning Notes

Democratic County Board Field at Two — Military veteran Chanda Choun was the only candidate for County Board to announce his candidacy at the Arlington County Democratic Committee last night. Choun joins fellow Democrat Matt de Ferranti in the race to challenge incumbent John Vihstadt. A primary will be held June 12, ahead of the general election contest against Vihstadt in November. [InsideNova]

Affordable Housing Stats for FY 2017 — “Arlington County added or preserved 556 affordable housing units for low- and moderate-income households during its 2017 fiscal year, bringing the Countywide total to more than 7,700 units.” [Arlington County]

Government Shuts Down Briefly — The government was shut down overnight as Congress failed to pass a bipartisan budget bill until around 5:30 a.m. [Politico]

HERricane Applications Accepted — Applications are being accepted in February for Arlington County’s HERricane program, which helps girls ages 13-17 to pursue careers and leadership roles in emergency management through a week-long summer camp. [Arlington County]

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Update at 9:30 p.m. — The shutdown is over after legislation passed Congress and was signed by President Trump.

Federal workers will receive back pay for any time lost during the shutdown.

More via a press release from Rep. Don Beyer’s office:

Legislative language mirroring a bill offered by Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) to protect the pay of federal workers during the government shutdown was passed by Congress today as part of a larger temporary funding bill. The inclusion of text of the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act will guarantee that the entire federal workforce receives back pay for the time during which appropriations lapsed.

“It is deeply disappointing that Congress was unable to prevent a government shutdown, but the passage of the our bill’s language should at least minimize the damage to rank-and-file civil servants,” said Rep. Beyer. “I thank my colleague Rep. Wittman for standing up for the federal workforce again, and hope that this will be the last time that this bill is necessary.”

Text of the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act was included in HR 195, which passed both chambers of Congress today. The bill had nearly 100 bipartisan cosponsors.

Earlier: The federal government could re-open as early as tomorrow after the U.S. Senate voted to advance a short-term spending plan today (Monday).

Senators voted 81-18 to end debate — a procedural move — on a three-week bill that would fund the government through February 8. The bill would give Congress more time to negotiate a long-term spending package.

The U.S. House of Representatives could vote on the plan today, if it passes the Senate.

The government partially shut down at midnight on Saturday (January 20).

But the impasse appears to have ended in the Senate after Republicans committed to holding a vote on the future of those who were brought to the country illegally as children and protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. President Donald Trump announced he would end the program in March.

In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D-Va.) blamed Republicans for the shutdown and said they were “deeply disappointed” that it could not stay open. But they said they are “heartened” by discussions that could help resolve many long-standing issues.

“As a result of those discussions, we now have a path forward to resolve many of the challenges that Congress has punted on for months, including a long-term solution to sequestration and full-year funding for our government and the military,” they said. “Today we are reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that tens of thousands of Virginians rely on – after months of Republican obstruction – and giving service-members and federal employees peace of mind that their paychecks will arrive on time. We also have the opportunity to finally make investments here at home to fight the opioid crisis, provide relief for communities hit by natural disasters, allow those who rely on community health centers to get care, reform pensions, and much more.”

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

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