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Jail entrance at the Arlington County Detention Facility

New grant funding will expand re-entry services for men incarcerated in Arlington County jail as they prepare to return home.

The $750,000 grant, available for three years, comes from the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Local nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration, which provides 60% of the transition services offered at the Arlington County Detention Facility through the Community Readiness Unit (CRU), applied for the grant in May.

OAR has been heavily involved in the CRU since its inception seven years ago. The organization decided to fundraise to support their existing work and do more, according to Executive Director Elizabeth Jones Valderrama.

The new program “will have major long-term public safety benefits and will provide people coming home with badly needed support,” Valderrama said in a statement. “Research shows that in order to mitigate against the harm and discrimination that impact those who are incarcerated, individuals must have access to robust wraparound programming both before and after release.”

CRU provides daily programming on topics such as parenting, conflict resolution, healthy relationships, entrepreneurship, ethics, social justice, wellness and substance use regulation, she said. OAR also offers job training, therapy and basic Spanish.

Dubbed “Project Second and Fair Chances for Individuals and Families,” the plan includes hiring additional staff and purchasing more resources to improve its offerings. It will allow the nonprofit to work with 40 men nine months prior to their release and up to 18 months after their release.

Valderrama told ARLnow the grant will pay for:

  • two new therapeutic staff and additional therapeutic resources.
  • a new tool to evaluate participants and identify appropriate therapeutic supports and post-release plan
  • a third-party evaluator to gauge participants’ success and identify gaps in the nonprofit’s funding programming

Men who participate in the new program will have access to a range of pre-release services, including:

  • risk assessments
  • one-on-one reentry coaching and planning
  • weekly workshops about subjects like co-parenting, employment retention and conflict resolution
  • cognitive-behavioral therapies and psychotherapy

After their release, OAR’s “Project Second and Fair Chances for Individuals and Families” will provide:

  • intensive case management
  • psychotherapy
  • facilitated support groups
  • family support and reunification
  • referrals for educational and vocational training

“Currently, OAR follows participants for three months-post release before transitioning them to other partners,” Valderrama tells ARLnow. “The grant will allow OAR to do more for participants, for a longer period of time after release.”

After the money runs out in three years, OAR will need to seek out more funding to sustain the program.

The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office said it is thrilled to keep working with OAR and expanding resources for incarcerated individuals.

“Most of those incarcerated will return to our community and my staff and I are committed to offering programs and additional services to help their transition and ensure their success,” said Sheriff Beth Arthur in a statement to ARLnow.

In her statement, Valderrama said the grant will mostly serve to uplift Black men as they transition back to their communities.

“Seventy percent of OAR’s reentry participants are Black, compared to only 4-12% of the Arlington area, which reflects the institutional racism and anti-Blackness pervading our country and the criminal legal system,” Valderrama said.

Additionally, 80% live in poverty and 40% experience homelessness after their release, according to OAR.

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Arlington County Courthouse (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Arlington County is shifting its restorative justice efforts to local nonprofits.

During the County Board meetings held this weekend and last night, members voted to shift nearly $200,000 to nonprofits that are set to continue Arlington’s restorative justice push.

This includes $91,029 in unspent grant money that will go back to the charitable foundations that provided it. Then, the money will be “re-awarded” to the county’s nonprofit partner, Restorative Arlington.

Additionally, $100,000 is being provided by the county as one-time funding to another locally-based nonprofit, the Center for Youth and Family Advocacy. In April 2022, a Notice of Funding Availability was distributed in the community asking relevant nonprofits “to describe innovative programming to work within Arlington County on the goal of enhancing restorative justice, racial equity, and diversion efforts.”

A review panel selected the Center for Youth and Family Advocacy due to its “multi-pronged approach.”

It was more than a year ago when the county first announced its intention to transition Arlington’s restorative justice efforts “from a government-based initiative to a community-based initiative.”

In April 2021, the County Board asked the County Manager in its Fiscal Year 2022 budget guidance to start moving its restorative justice efforts — then also called “Restorative Arlington” — to an initiative run by local nonprofits.

“This transition will also allow for a more efficient approach to leveraging grant and endowment resources,” the guidance read.

Then, in May 2022, the county launched its new “Heart of Safety” program after two years of work and planning. A program of this nature was also what Arlington’s top prosecutor, Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, promised during her 2019 campaign.

A month later, in June 2022, Restorative Arlington officially transitioned “from a public program rooted in the County Manager’s office to a private nonprofit,” per director Kimiko Lighty at Tuesday’s County Board meeting.

Board Chair Katie Cristol told ARLnow late last week that this had always been the intention. The county’s role was to act as an “incubator” and “fiscal agent” with grants for a limited amount of time while the nonprofits worked to get set up and ready to take on the programs.

“As the government, the relationship with restorative justice has always been sort of unusual from the start… the goal has always been ultimately to have a community-based provider,” Cristol said. “Community-based allows this initiative and this effort to truly be centered on the needs of the individuals who were harmed and being able to bring about that restitution and reparation. That’s opposed to institutions, especially criminal justice institutions, that are always going to have interests — important [ones] — but interests other than the needs of the individual who was harmed.”

While local officials might say this was the intent all along, some feel that this is a departure from the original aim.

Brad Haywood, the county’s chief public defender, said he was a bit “surprised” by the move, particularly because they had someone from their office go to all the planning sessions, helping to build the program. Haywood feels like it’s somewhat “a change of plans” from the initial intent.

“We haven’t been told much,” he told ARLnow. “We felt like we were building momentum with Arlington leading the way.”

Nonetheless, Haywood is “optimistic” that Arlington’s restorative justice programs will continue in a manner that will benefit residents — particularly if multiple programs meeting several needs arise out of the shift to local, nonprofit partners.

“Then, that would be value-added,” he said.

Cristol noted at Tuesday’s meeting that this move does not mean the county will no longer be part of local restorative justice efforts.

“The idea of shifting the locus of restorative justice to a community-based organization, which has always been the goal, does not mean that government does not continue to play a role,” said Cristol. “We want our agencies that have been part of traditional justice to be partners in shifting towards a more restorative approach.”

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A $10,000 state tourism grant will revamp how Arlington promotes its Black history to tourists.

Currently, the county’s tourism webpage outlines some of the important historic moments and existing landmarks. The landing page links to blog posts featuring Black businesses and artwork celebrating Arlington’s Black culture and history.

Travelers who want more can download a 68-page online tour guide last updated in 2016.

Arlington Convention and Visitors Service — the tourism division of Arlington Economic Development — wants to give the branding for these resources a facelift. And on Saturday, the Arlington County Board accepted a $10,000 grant from the Virginia Tourism Corporation to fund these upgrades.

“The Black Arlington experience is an incredibly representative one of American history and we are really excited to welcome in more tourists to learn about those landmarks and narratives,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said during the Saturday meeting.

The changes would make it easier to plan a trip engaging with Arlington’s Black history and support its Black-owned businesses.

“One idea is to create a customized map that highlights sites and experiences that honor and commemorate Arlington’s Black history across the County as well as showcase Black-owned business locations,” said ACVS director Emily Cassell. “We’re also considering adding suggested itineraries for visitors.”

The grant will pay for fresh photos, a professional video of major sights and digital assets for social media.

How Arlington celebrates its Black history has changed since the last reprinting of the tour guide.

Nauck — a historically Black neighborhood named for a Confederate soldier — was renamed Green Valley in 2020. The Nauck Town Square was dubbed the John Robinson Jr. Town Square and construction there on a new plaza and sculpture wrapped up this spring.

Last summer, Lee Highway was renamed Langston Blvd and Arlington Public Schools unveiled panels at Dorothy Hamm Middle School honoring the four students who integrated the building — formerly Stratford Junior High School — six decades ago.

On Friday, the Black Heritage Museum celebrated its grand reopening in a new space at 3045B Columbia Pike.

Eventually, visitors will be able to see more historical reminders of Arlington’s Jim Crow era. The new Fire Station No. 8 (4845 Langston Blvd) will pay tribute to the Hall’s Hill Volunteer Fire Department, which served the historically Black neighborhood, and the forthcoming restaurant in the former Green Valley Pharmacy space will pay homage to the only lunch counter and pharmacy that served Black people during segregation.

Information like this is expected to migrate to a new tourism website that will go live next year.

“We are well into plans for a new website launching in 2023, and are actively working on improved and expanded tourism content across the board,” Cassell said. “We are very pleased that this new [funding] will help us enhance visitor experiences and better tell the story of Arlington’s African American heritage. We’re also thrilled with today’s ribbon cutting at The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington and look forward to our continued partnership.”

The grant will facilitate collaboration with other groups, too, including Arlington’s business improvement districts, neighborhood groups, libraries, the county’s Historic Preservation Program, Walk Arlington and Bike Arlington, according to the county report.

ACVS applied for the grant early this year as part of an effort to conduct strategic tourism planning as travel recovers from the pandemic, according to a county report. From February through May, ACVS heard from nearly 40 “local hospitality stakeholders” on ideas they thought could boost local tourism.

“Of numerous ideas considered, participants expressed enthusiasm for promoting visitor sites and experiences that showcase Arlington’s African American heritage,” the report said.

Other ideas for improving tourism, discussed in the report, include a more up-to-date calendar of events, more live music venues, and water taxi routes to Reagan National Airport, the Pentagon and Rosslyn.

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Morning Notes

Sunset along Columbia Pike near Dama restaurant (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Baseball Tourney in Arlington — “One area’s loss became another’s big gain in recent days when Arlington County was added as an emergency replacement site for this month’s American Legion state-baseball tournament. The eight-team competition, which will include local District 17’s Arlington Post 139 as the host team, will take place July 26-30 at the Barcroft Park and Wakefield High School fields.” [Sun Gazette]

Grant for Second Ballston Metro Entrance — From the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission: “[Arlington County] received $4.5M from I-66 Commuter Choice to construct a second entrance at Ballston-MU Station that will improve access to transit and support continued redevelopment in the area.” [Twitter]

More Whinos on the Way? — “Whino is a 6,300-square-foot bar, restaurant, art gallery and entertainment venue on the second floor of Brookfield Properties’ Ballston Quarter. While it’s only a year old, founder Shane Pomajambo has big expansion plans for his budding brand.” [Washington Business Journal]

Honor for Local Catholic Newspaper — “The Catholic Herald was named the best diocesan newspaper in its class — one of 36 awards received at the annual Catholic Media Association conference in Portland July 4-7.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

Today in Dubious Data — “A new survey suggests that Virginia residents have a clear preference for their milkshakes. Chocolate? Nope. Vanilla? Negative. Strawberry? Sorry, Charlie. According to a statistical analysis of Google search data, Virginians are most enraptured by peppermint milkshakes, according to new data from RTA Outdoor Living.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Monday — Clear throughout the day. High of 82 and low of 65. Sunrise at 5:54 am and sunset at 8:36 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A grant program is providing cash to local businesses to help with expenses — and offering one day of discounts to those businesses this weekend.

The “Love Local” relief program is giving $100,000 to more than 30 Crystal City and Pentagon City retail shops, salons, and restaurants. The grants are to provide “financial and promotional support covering wages and operator-related expenses.”

The program is a partnership between the National Landing Business Improvement District and the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.

Each business is receiving the same grant amount, a spokesperson said, which works out to about $3,000 apiece.

“As National Landing continues to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, Love Local grants will help our local businesses continue to support their employees while providing our neighbors with important services,” National Landing BID Executive Director Tracy Sayegh Gabriel said in a press release. “We are proud to be a part of this critical initiative and look forward to supporting our local businesses and seeing them thrive.”

The criteria for a business to be selected for the grant money included having a brick and mortar location within the BID’s borders and being open for at least a year.

Additionally, all grant recipients are being asked to participate in this weekend’s “Love Local Day.”

On Saturday, the businesses will be offering exclusive one-day discounts and promotions — from free engraving at Ship’s Hatch to 20% off high-end watches at Real Jewelers to 10-15% discounts at local restaurants like Saigon Saigon.

This is the second year of the grant program. In 2021, the program also handed out nearly $100,000 to 30 local businesses.

The list of the grant recipients is below.

  • Asia Bistro
  • Axis Rehab & Chiropractic
  • Bonsai Grill
  • Commonwealth Joe
  • Coqui Boutique
  • Crystal City Sports Pub
  • Crystal City Wine Shop
  • Enjera Restaurant
  • Extreme Pizza
  • Flowers with Love
  • Freddie’s Beach Bar
  • Frederico Ristorante Italiano
  • Gallery Underground
  • Garden Fantasy
  • Good Stuff Eatery, Crystal City
  • Highline RxR
  • La Bettola Italiano
  • Lily Bubble Tea & Smoothie
  • Mind Your Body Oasis
  • Nail Spa
  • Pentagon City Wine Merchant
  • Potomac Social Tavern
  • Portofino
  • Pure Barre Pentagon City
  • RASA
  • Real Jewelers
  • Saigon Saigon
  • Ship’s Hatch
  • Subway Crystal City Metro
  • Subway Crystal City
  • Synetic Theater
  • The Freshman
  • Urban Thai Restaurant
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Arlington County will be studying a two-mile stretch of S. George Mason Drive, from Route 50 to the border with Fairfax County, to identify potential transportation improvements.

The study is happening now because the road is a solid candidate for grants that have applications due in the winter. But before they can apply, county staff need to examine current conditions and hear from locals about their biggest safety concerns, according to Leah Gerber, an county transportation planner.

She said one reason staff are optimistic about grant funding is because the upgrades would benefit residents of census tracts with high concentrations of ethnic minorities, or “equity emphasis areas,” according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Over the next two months, staff will analyze data such as transit ridership and traffic counts and develop concept plans for three segments of the road:

  • North Segment — Arlington Blvd to Columbia Pike
  • Middle Segment — Columbia Pike to S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • South Segment — S. Four Mile Run Drive to county line

Staff will also develop 15% designs for the Columbia Pike-county line segment.

“The southern portion we feel will really be eligible for grant funding,” said Valerie Mosley, the bureau chief of Transportation Planning and Capital Project Management for Arlingtons Department of Environmental Services.

The study is slated for commission and County Board review this fall, in time for applications to go out this winter.

“We’re working on a fairly truncated timetable for this study and we wanted to start by asking about your experience,” public engagement coordinator Nate Graham said during a community kick-off meeting last week. “That feedback from the community will help us, along with data analysis, plan a study and identify solutions that can resolve those issues.”

A survey, open through Sunday, May 1, asks respondents how safe they feel walking, scooting, driving and biking the road. People can signal their preferred upgrades from options such as protected bike lanes, sheltered bus stops, bus-only lanes and widened sidewalks. Using an interactive map, respondents can pinpoint specific locations they say need attention.

The segments of S. George Mason Drive being studied by the county (via Arlington County)

What staff members know so far is that some residents have long requested safer pedestrian crossings through improvements such as flashing beacons. One oft-cited intersection is with 6th Street S., near the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, where shrubbery and trees make it hard to see oncoming cars.

Some cyclists, meanwhile, have pointed out inconsistent bike infrastructure, with lanes that start and stop at random. Other residents say more parking enforcement is needed between Columbia Pike and S. Four Mile Run Drive, where large commercial trucks park despite being too wide for the parking spaces available.

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Gavel (Flickr photo by Joe Gratz)

The philanthropic arm of the Arlington County Bar Association is looking to support local nonprofits with a connection to the legal community.

From now through the month of April, the Arlington County Bar Foundation is accepting grant applications from organizations promoting or improving the justice system in Arlington and the City of Falls Church. The foundation helps local charities through grant funding and personnel support, says Paul Ferguson, the Arlington Bar Foundation Grants Committee Chair.

Grants are largely funded by members of the legal community through tax-deductible donations to the Bar Foundation, said Ferguson, the elected Clerk of the Circuit Court in Arlington, a former County Board member, and a GMU law alum.

“The Arlington County Bar Foundation is a charitable board made up of mostly attorneys,” he said. “Grants are awarded to organizations that have a connection to the law [or] legal community. Sometimes the grants go to specific projects or initiatives but they also can be non-specific.”

Awards typically range between $250 and $2,000, although the foundation has given out larger amounts in years past.

Traditionally, Ferguson says, the highest-dollar grant recipient is Legal Services of Northern Virginia, which provides legal advice and services to the region’s neediest populations, including veterans, human-trafficking victims and people with disabilities.

Other past recipients used the funding to tackle domestic violence and homelessness, including SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) of Northern Virginia and Doorways, or to help formerly incarcerated individuals re-enter society, such as Offender Aid & Restoration and Arm & Arm.

Many recent award-winners work with Northern Virginia’s immigrant population: Ayuda, the Borromeo Legal Project, the immigrant advocacy program at Legal Aid Justice Center and immigration attorney James Montana, who used the money to cover citizenship costs for his pro-bono clients.

Grant applications — which can request up to $5,000 — are due by Friday, April 29. They must be no longer than one page and include the following information:

  • Name of the organization, name of the person submitting the grant and a primary address, phone number and email
  • Purpose of the organization and how it serves Arlington and/or Falls Church
  • Connection to the legal community and/or how the project promotes and improves justice system
  • Amount requested
  • Specific project and/or what grant funds will be used for
  • Tax ID # and IRS Tax Status

Those who are interested in applying are asked to email Ferguson.

Applicants will be notified of the foundation’s decision by the end of May with grant payments available in July.

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Morning Notes

Spotted: Robot Dog in Courthouse — “Several people were standing outside one of the Colonial Place buildings today. I thought it was a fire drill at first, but they were too close to the building. Then I saw it.” [Twitter]

Yorktown High’s ‘Dull’ Scoreboard — “The scoreboard at Greenbrier field is not shattered, opaque or severely damaged, but it is dysfunctional and has been for some time. This is especially frustrating for athletes whose sports play in broad daylight, as the scoreboard’s bulbs are so dim they are nearly impossible to see. Parents of these athletes have voiced their complaints about the dull board, arguing that each of the other high schools in Arlington have modern, working scoreboards, while our school’s model has been in use since 2003.” [Yorktown Sentry]

TR Bridge Delays Could Get Even Worse — “Emergency repairs that will enable the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge to safely support the weight of regular traffic will probably last through the summer and cost about $6 million, the District Department of Transportation said, becoming the latest hindrance to the Washington commute as more employees return to in-person work.” [Washington Post]

More Grants for Nat’l Landing Businesses — “A grant program to support restaurants and small businesses in the National Landing area of Arlington will return for a second year… This latest round of funding totals $100,000. Grants will support small businesses’ pay for workers and other operating expenses.” [Patch]

Wakefield Gymnast Going to States — “Gabby Watts will have her opportunity to participate in the girls state gymnastics meet. The Wakefield Warriors gymnast qualified for the Virginia High School League Class 6 competition by winning the balance beam with a 9.583 score at the 6D North Region championships.” [Sun Gazette]

Reminder: ARLnow’s Reader Survey — If you want to weigh in on some changes ARLnow might make this year, please take our annual, three-minute survey before it closes at the end of the month. [SurveyMonkey]

It’s Wednesday — Today will be mostly sunny and breezy, with a high near 53. Sunrise at 6:57 a.m. and sunset at 5:47 p.m. Tomorrow there’s a slight chance of showers after 1 p.m., otherwise it will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 66 and wind gusts as high as 29 mph. [Weather.gov]

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Local authorities thwarted potentially fraudulent attempts to obtain Covid grant funds intended for struggling Arlington small businesses.

Seventy-four applications for Arlington Economic Development’s GRANT 2.0 program were identified as suspicious, officials say. While AED was reviewing the 529 applications it received, it noticed unusual data in some, such as incorrect contact information or submissions for businesses that had been previously closed.

“Upon further review with the Treasurer’s Office and Arlington County Police Department, staff learned some of these questionable applications contained incorrect business license numbers and/or suspicious/blacklisted IP addresses,” AED spokesperson Cara O’Donnell told ARLnow.

Thanks to its “multi-tiered review process and cross-departmental verification of records,” the activity was caught early before any distribution of funds.

“At no time were these attempts successful,” an email AED sent to business owners reads. “Your security is our utmost concern, and it is extremely disheartening that individuals would use federal rescue funds targeted to small business recovery for potentially criminal activity.”

The Arlington County Police Department is investigating the applications. AED and the police department recommend business owners watch their financial activity and remain vigilant.

“In cases of business identity theft, individuals are sometimes able to gain access to business and/or business owners’ financial information, account numbers or other personal data and then open lines of credit or obtain business loans based on the business’ identity and creditworthiness,” the email states.

If business owners see any unusual financial activity in their accounts, the police department recommends it be reported online or to 703-228-4300.

“At this point in the investigation, police have not uncovered evidence nor received any reports from affected businesses that their information was used in any other manner,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow.

AED announced in September that the  Small Business GRANT 2.0 program would provide $2 million to up to 200 eligible businesses and nonprofits. The program focuses on industries most affected by stay-at-home orders and those that had not previously received state or federal funding.

The grant application period was between Oct. 6-10 for small businesses in industries including arts and entertainment, child care, hotel and accommodations, personal services, restaurants and food service, and retail.

There were 76 eligible businesses and nonprofits selected from the applicants and awarded $10,000 to go toward salaries, benefits and other capital and operating expenses affected by Covid.

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Arlington County is applying for a $4.5 million grant to further offset a proposed west entrance to the Ballston Metro station.

On Saturday, the County Board is set to approve this request for funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC), which would come from I-66 toll revenues.

This is the latest application from the county, which is trying to offset the $140 million project with regional and state dollars even as some of these sources have dried up due to the pandemic.

The entrance would be located at N. Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street, almost a quarter of a mile west of the existing entrance. The county previously said this second entrance would greatly expand access to the station, increase Metro’s capacity and make it more efficient.

Map showing potential location of new Ballston Metro entrance (via Google Maps)

If all the funding comes through, designs could be completed next year and construction could start in 2024 and end in 2027, Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors tells ARLnow.

“The team is looking to finish the 35% design update this year and procure design-build services in 2023, pending funding from NVTA,” Pors said. “Construction is projected to start in 2024 and we anticipate a construction period of 3 years.”

The $4.5 million represents a revised request to the NVTC. Arlington had previously applied for $10 million from the same program in January 2020 but — despite being “the top scoring project” — the project was cut from the funding round due to a drop in toll revenue caused by COVID-19.

“Following a request from NVTC staff, the County withdrew its application for the Ballston-MU West Entrance in August 2020,” the report said. “I-66 Commuter Choice Program revenues have still not fully recovered from the effects of the pandemic, and so for Round Five the County has lowered its funding request from $10 million to $4,500,000.”

And while available funding is scarce, the cost to build the second entrance is increasing. A 2019 estimate put the project at $130 million; a 2021 estimate puts the project at $140 million.

“The use of the known information on items such as station entrance layout and elevator location from the design updates instead of previous assumptions in the 2019 cost estimate, along with the impact of inflation, are the two drivers of the cost increase,” the report said.

More than half of the project’s costs could come from a pending application with the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) for $80 million. The county says this sum would cover the rising costs as well as the loss of funding from NVTC and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, which also lost revenue for new projects during the pandemic.

Pors said the NVTA will make a funding decision later this spring or in the early summer months.

Meanwhile, Arlington County intends to increase how much it’s budgeting for the project, from $25 million to $30 million.

Arlington’s Transportation Commission — while supportive of the project — is sounding the alarm on the $5 million increase at the local level.

“The Commission is concerned specifically about: 1) The appropriateness of making a change this large in how capital funding is being allocated completely outside of the CIP process and seemingly hidden within grant applications,” chairman Chris Slatt said in a letter to the County Board. “2) The high overall cost of the project and whether it still represents a good ‘bang for our buck’ in increasing access to transit for Arlington residents.”

He said $30 million could be used locally to bring every bus stop in Arlington into full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, increase Capital Bikeshare’s 10-year capital budget or cover the costs to design and build more local projects intended to lower traffic congestion and improve public transit.

Map via Google Maps

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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.

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