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New Study Suggests People in Arlington’s Poorest Neighborhoods Are Less Able to Lead Healthy Lives

New research suggests that people living in Arlington’s poorest neighborhoods also have the fewest opportunities to lead healthy lives when compared to other communities throughout the entire D.C. region.

A study commissioned by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University show that many of Arlington’s most diverse neighborhoods with the lowest median incomes, such Columbia Heights, Nauck, Douglas Park and Buckingham, also scored the lowest in their measure of “health opportunities” across metropolitan Washington. The results closely mirror a previous study’s findings that people living in many of the same neighborhoods lack economic opportunities as well.

The researchers developed a “Healthy Places Index,” known as HPI, to evaluate not only health outcomes (like life expectancy) in each community, but also to understand whether people have the opportunity to be healthy based on where they live. That includes evaluations of factors like air quality, access to healthcare, housing affordability, the availability of public transportation and education levels.

The study applies that index to neighborhoods across the D.C. area, examining communities using granular Census tract designations to detect patterns within counties and cities in the region. Though the group found that the overall health of the 4.5 million people living in the District and its suburbs is “excellent” and “well above the national average,” they also uncovered “islands of disadvantage” within even wealthy localities like Arlington.

Even though some of the more affluent, higher educated areas of the county rate quite highly in the study’s measure of health opportunities, others rank among the lowest in all of Northern Virginia. The researchers identified the Columbia Heights neighborhood, just off Columbia Pike, as having one of the “the lowest HPI scores in the region,” noting that about 23 percent of adult residents there live in poverty. Buckingham, located along Route 50, also posted poor HPI scores, and the study noted that its residents have a median income of about $38,125 annually.

“The researchers found stark contrasts in socioeconomic and environmental conditions in Northern Virginia, often between neighborhoods separated by only a few miles or blocks,” the VCU academics wrote. “As was observed elsewhere in the region, people of color were disproportionately exposed to adverse living conditions.”

To illustrate those points, the study compared McLean — one of the wealthiest and whitest communities in the area — to Columbia Heights. The former ranked among the top-scoring neighborhoods in the region on the HPI, a far cry from Columbia Heights’ own performance.

“The population in the McLean tract was predominately white (70 percent) and Asian (19 percent), the population in Columbia Heights was largely Hispanic (51 percent) and black (19 percent),” the researchers wrote. “More than half was foreign-born, and most immigrated during 2000-2009.”

While the researchers identify a whole host of factors that could be contributing to such a split, they also stress that it is impossible to ignore the impact of “institutional racism” in understanding why such a divide exists between the races when it comes to health opportunities. They note that discriminatory housing and economic policies mean that people of color are “more likely to live in racially and ethnically segregated neighborhoods that suffer from decades of disinvestment,” which can have a whole host of negative consequences for their health.

“As a result, neighborhoods of color often lack access to affordable high-quality housing, stores that sell healthy foods, green space, clean air and clean water,” the researchers wrote. “These communities are often targets for fast food outlets, tobacco and alcohol marketing and liquor stores. These conditions affect not only the health, economic opportunity, and social mobility of people of color, but they also weaken the health and economy of the entire region.”

Accordingly, the study recommends approaches recognizing that history to officials sitting on the Council of Governments, as they try to craft a response across the region.

“Real solutions require targeted investments in marginalized neighborhoods to improve access to affordable, healthy housing as well as affordable transportation, child care, and health care (e.g., primary care, dental care, behavioral health services),” they wrote. “Everyone benefits from this approach, not only the residents in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, but also the entire regional economy. Economic and racial inequity saps the strength of the economy. Everyone pays a price for inaction: persistent poverty and social isolation fuel discontent, unhealthy behaviors (e.g., drug addiction), crime, and violence.”

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With Medicaid Expansion Nearly a Reality in Virginia, Officials Prep New Outreach Efforts in Arlington

Fresh off the high of securing expanded Medicaid coverage for thousands of Arlingtonians, advocates and healthcare professionals have a new challenge to confront: how to reach people newly eligible for health insurance, when they might have no idea about the change.

That’s a big part of why state officials and Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) convened a meeting of more than 100 people Friday (Oct. 26) at the offices of Arlington’s Department of Human Services, offering strategies for just how they can help ensure that everyone who now qualifies for Medicaid gets covered when enrollment starts Thursday (Nov. 1).

The program’s expansion, the result of a years-long battle in the General Assembly that culminated in a compromise signed by Gov. Ralph Northam this spring, will allow low-income adults without any children to access health coverage through Medicaid for the first time ever in Virginia.

It also bumps up the income caps for families and people with disabilities, meaning that roughly 400,000 people are now eligible for the program across the state. And in Arlington alone, roughly 7,000 people could join the Medicaid rolls, according to Anita Freeman, the county’s director of human services.

“It’s a really gratifying day that we’re at this point, talking about enrolling thousands of people to get healthcare who didn’t have it before,” Hope told the crowd. “It’s a long day in coming.”

The expansion is indeed a development welcomed with jubilation by Democrats, and even some moderate Republicans, but it won’t come without complications. Not only will the process of enrolling more people in Medicaid cost localities a bit more money, but state and local officials alike have to work to make people aware they actually stand to benefit from a program that’s long shut them out.

“We’re undertaking the largest expansion of health coverage in Virginia history,” said Dr. Jennifer Lee, the director of the state’s Department of Medical Assistance Services. “We’re all super excited about it, but there is a lot of change too.”

Over the course of the meeting, Lee outlined a variety of ways that her department, which manages Medicaid in the state, plans to start reaching people about their new eligibility. That includes work with Community Service Boards, organizations in each Virginia locality focused largely on overseeing mental health and substance abuse services, and even local and regional jails.

As Lee points out, many people who are currently incarcerated have their healthcare needs covered by the state, but could be shifted to Medicaid under the new rules. And for people looking to re-enter their communities, particularly after being convicted on drug charges, she wants to connect them to Medicaid to get them the tools they need to confront their substance abuse issues.

“We want to get them in to recovery, so that they aren’t constantly cycling in and out of the system due to their addiction,” Lee said.

State officials will also launch a series of mailers to people receiving other government benefits, like food stamps, who may be able to easily enroll in Medicaid coverage by providing a few more details to officials.

But Lee also implored attendees, many of whom came from nonprofits and other groups working with low-income people around the county, to help become “spokespeople” about the new Medicaid realities in their own neighborhoods. She’s particularly interested in finding people who can reach non-English speakers, as they might have the hardest time understanding the maze of new rules governing the program.

“The best message for folks is that the rules have changed in Virginia Medicaid,” Lee said. “If they’ve applied before, they should try again.”

Complicating matters further for Lee and her fellow healthcare advocates is that the rules surrounding the Medicaid expansion will change sometime in the future. That’s because the program will eventually require enrollees to prove that they’re employed, in school or pursuing a job in order to receive coverage, a stipulation insisted on by some state Republicans initially hesitant to back Medicaid expansion.

Yet Lee explained that the state will need to get federal approval before putting those requirements in place. She said her department will submit an application to kick off the process as soon as this week, but there’s no telling when the state will earn the green light.

“It could be next week, six months or two years,” Lee told ARLnow in an interview after the meeting. “And then there will be some ramp-up time once we get the approval, because these are complicated new rules we’ll have to put in place.”

Some Republicans have grumbled that Northam’s administration is taking too long to implement the new work requirements, and that they’ll likely contain too many “loopholes” to help people avoid working — applicants who can prove they have an illness or condition that prevents them from holding a job will be able to earn exemptions from the requirements.

But Lee believes the state’s work requirements are “right in line” with other recently adopted standards, like those in Kentucky and Indiana. She also vigorously disputes any implication that the state is dragging its feet in setting up the new requirements, noting that it’s pressing for federal approval just as quickly as it can.

“Indiana planned for years to put theirs in place,” Lee said. “When you look at other states, we’re actually pursuing an extremely aggressive timeline here.”

Yet, beyond all the complications and the political squabbling, Lee worked to stress just how valuable the Medicaid expansion will be for vulnerable Virginians.

She once worked as a physician in the emergency room at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, and told a story of encountering a woman who suffered an acute stroke and wasn’t able to walk, but initially declined to be admitted to the hospital because she was uninsured and feared she couldn’t afford treatment.

“She told us, ‘I can’t be admitted because I have to go to work tomorrow,” Lee said. “So don’t forget, this is real. This is for our friends, our family, who desperately need access to care, and can’t get it.”

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Morning Notes

Marine Corps Marathon Recap — A D.C. man and a Costa Rican woman were the winners of the 43rd annual Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday. Meanwhile, the last “Groundpounder,” who had run every Marine Corps Marathon since its inception in 1976, announced his retirement on Saturday after deciding to withdraw from this year’s race. [RunWashington, Stars and Stripes, WTOP]

Arlington Gets Addiction Treatment Grant — “Arlington County has been awarded $250,000 from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst) to help people with substance use disorders. The grant is part of the insurer’s nearly $2.1-million investment in community health organizations working to combat substance use disorders, including opioid use disorders.” [Arlington County]

Parking Concerns For Nauck Pool — “Nauck Civic Association president Portia Clark, whose organization supports” a planned pool in Nauck, “pressed county officials to make sure the neighborhood had a say on issues related to its development, including operating hours and parking. ‘Our community has some parking challenges,’ Clark said. ‘The community should be involved.'” [InsideNova]

‘Signs of Fatigue’ For Real Estate Market — “There was a pronounced drop in the number of homes for sale in Northern Virginia in September, and prices may be showing signs of topping out… The number of sales across the Northern Virginia region almost universally fell in September, with sales in Arlington County down 12 percent from a year ago.” [WTOP]

Flickr pool photos by Eric and Kevin Wolf

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Del. Hope to Host Medicaid Expansion Town Hall

Del. Patrick Hope (D) will be hosting a town hall helping Arlingtonians understand Virginia’s new Medicaid expansion this On Friday, Oct. 26.

Hope is expected be joined at the town hall by Dr. Jennifer Lee, director of the Department of Medical Assistance Services, who will help explain who qualifies under the new regulations.

Many Virginians currently ineligible for Medicaid may be qualified under the new expansion. Childless adults were previously ineligible for Medicaid in Virginia, but those with an annual income at or below $16,754 may be eligible under the new regulations.

Eligibility for parents has been raised from those with an income at or below $6,900 to $28,677. Eligibility for people with disabilities has been raised from those earning $9,700 or below to $16,754.

An eligibility screening tool is available online to help Virginians discover if they can be covered by the new Medicaid expansion.

Applications to the state’s expanded Medicaid program can be filed beginning Nov. 2.

The meeting is scheduled for 2-4 p.m in the lower level auditorium of the Arlington County Department of Human Services (2100 Washington Blvd).

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Morning Notes

WeWork Coming to Rosslyn — Another coworking space is coming to Rosslyn. WeWork is reportedly coming to three floors near the top of the new CEB Tower. [Washington Business Journal]

Board Passes Four Mile Run Plan — Despite some dissatisfaction among those who live in a nearby community, the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to adopt as-is the proposed Four Mile Run Valley Park Master Plan and Design Guidelines, which includes “a comprehensive Master Plan for Jennie Dean Park and Shirlington Park, with short and mid-term recommendations for maintaining and improving Shirlington Dog Park.” [Arlington County]

Memorial Bridge Closure Rescheduled — Due to high river levels, work on and the closure of the Arlington Memorial Bridge has been rescheduled to this coming weekend. [Twitter, National Park Service]

Salt Storage Structure Approved — “The Arlington County Board today voted to allow the County to build an interim salt storage structure before winter sets in, on County-owned property on Old Dominion Drive, between 25th Road N. and 26th Street N.” [Arlington County]

Scooter Injury in Crystal City — A woman on a motorized scooter reportedly suffered a dislocated elbow after she accidentally ran into a wall in the Crystal City area Friday evening. The safety of the electric rental scooters has been questioned both locally and nationally. [Twitter]

Coming ‘Flood’ of Medicaid Applicants — “The Arlington County Board today voted unanimously to accept state funding that will help pay for additional staff needed to process an expected flood of new applications for Medicaid under the state’s expanded program, Cover Virginia… ‘Under the expanded program, we expect 3,000 more County residents will qualify. Childless low-income adults with no disabilities, a group previously excluded, and families and persons with disabilities whose income previously was not considered to be low enough to qualify will now be eligible for coverage.'” [Arlington County]

Packer Drops By Clarendon Day — Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones, in town for Sunday’s game against the Redskins — the local team ended up upsetting the visitors 31-17 — dropped by Clarendon Day on Saturday. He also posed for a photo with Arlington County police. [Twitter]

APS Wires 40 Schools for Fiber Connection — “Arlington Public Schools (APS) is kicking off the 2018-19 school year with a brand-new connection–ConnectArlington. Thanks to a yearlong collaboration, 40 Arlington school facilities are now up and running on the County’s own fiber optic network. APS made the switch from a commercial provider to take advantage of ConnectArlington’s high-speed, dedicated network for digital telecommunications and broadband services.” [Arlington County]

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Arlington Hopes to Hire Six Workers to Manage Medicaid Expansion Changes

Arlington officials expect as many as 3,000 more people will be able to earn health insurance through the Medicaid expansion passed by state lawmakers this year — and now the county needs new staffers to sort through the paperwork.

The County Board could soon accept just over $277,000 in state funds to hire six new workers to process Medicaid eligibility applications, anticipating that Arlington will see up to 7,000 requests for coverage through the program when changes officially take effect next year.

The General Assembly approved the expansion this spring, after Democrats’ sweeping gains in the legislature set the stage for a compromise on an issue that had long roiled state politics. Now, Arlington and other localities around the state are preparing for an influx of applications from low-income and disabled workers looking to earn healthcare coverage under the program for the first time.

Starting Jan. 1, 2019, Medicaid benefits will be available for childless, able-bodied adults for the first time, so long as they earn no more than $16,754 a year. The income cap will be raised to the same level for adults with disabilities, up from $9,700 a year, while income limits will also be bumped up for families with anywhere from three to eight children.

Under those new standards, county officials project at least 2,904 additional people in Arlington will be eligible for the program, and staff fully expects that evaluating the incoming flow of applications will overwhelm county workers.

While income is one measure Medicaid officials will examine in determining if someone is eligible for benefits, the program will also require many recipients to hold down a job — Republicans insisted on including the work requirements as a condition for approving the plan, though it will likely entail complex reporting requirements.

Accordingly, hiring six new staffers would help the county better distribute work among its employees and “contribute to reducing the error rate and processing time for application and recertification processing,” staff wrote in a report prepared for the Board.

In all, the county expects to spend about $527,000 annually to afford those staffers moving forward, with the state covering just over half that amount. Staff are hoping to pay for the remaining $249,000 or so with its own money, then evaluate in future budget years if the county needs to maintain those positions.

The Board is set to sign off on the new hires at its meeting Saturday (Sept. 22).

Photo via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

County Board Lauds Medicaid Expansion — “We applaud the General Assembly for taking this critical step,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said in a county press release. “We are especially thrilled that some 7,000 Arlingtonians now will have healthcare coverage — this legislative action will improve outcomes for their health and welfare, strengthen our workforce, and help our community and the Commonwealth.” [Arlington County]

Local Man Charged With Punching Horse in Dewey — A 23-year-old Arlington man has been charged with striking a Delaware State Police horse during a late night brawl in Dewey Beach, Del. over Memorial Day weekend. The horse was uninjured. [Cape Gazette]

Meet Some of the Women of Public Safety in Arlington — “Women in Arlington County’s public safety agencies and departments take on a diverse array of roles, all of which will be on display at the second annual Women in Public Safety Outreach Event” this weekend. [Arlington County]

Nearby: Falls Church Releases Footage of Groping Suspect — Falls Church Police have released video surveillance footage of a man they said groped a woman after she walked into a business on the 700 block of W. Broad Street. [City of Falls Church, YouTube]

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Morning Notes

Fund Bets on Amazon HQ2 Coming to Crystal City — A New York-based asset manager is making a $10 million bet that Crystal City will be the location chosen for Amazon’s HQ2. The company cited a high concentration of millennials and housing in the area, as well as proximity to Metro stations, commuter rail and Reagan National Airport. [Bloomberg, ZeroHedge]

Chamber Wants Extended Parking Meter Hours Paused — “Leadership of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce wants the county government to hit the brakes on a proposal to increase parking-meter fees and extend the hours meters must be fed. In a letter to County Board Chairman Katie Cristol, Arlington Chamber president Kate Bates said the government failed to do proper outreach before proposing the alterations to existing policy.” [InsideNova]

Grumbles About Ballston Construction — “Like many who venture to the kingdom of Ballston, I am impatient for the never-ending renovations to be over. Tina Leone, CEO of the Ballston Business Improvement District, was happy to promise me that the rewards for us patrons of Arlington’s most central community will unfold in September–with staggered openings continuing through May 2019.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Average Single-Family Home Sale: $1 Million — The average sale price of a single-family home in Arlington in March was $1,066,368, up 6.9 percent from a year prior. [InsideNova]

Ribbon Cutting for Abingdon Renovations — A ribbon cutting ceremony is being held at 9:30 this morning to celebrate the recently-completed addition and renovations at Abingdon Elementary School in Fairlington. [Twitter]

Lopez Talks Medicaid Expansion — Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) was a guest on Politico’s healthcare podcast to discuss the possibility of expanding Medicaid in Virginia. [Simplecast, Twitter]

Photo by Anna Merod

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Arlington Free Clinic Receives $250K Donation

A long-time pharmacy volunteer at the Arlington Free Clinic has donated a quarter million dollars to the nonprofit medical center.

The $250,000 gift came from a retired Arlington special education teacher who prefers anonymity.

The clinic’s benefactor grew up in Pennsylvania coal country with immigrant parents. Her mother died of diabetes when she was nine; her father continued raising her until he died  of an untreated dental infection that spread to his brain when she was 18.

She came to the clinic one day and sat down with Arlington Free Clinic staff and asked what could be done with better funding.

“We started talking about dental, and her eyes lit up and the lights came on,” recounted Nancy White, the clinic’s executive director. White says that the volunteer wanted to support her father’s legacy with a gift that would prevent others from suffering how he did and to prevent children from losing their parents to preventable health problems.

The gift inspired the Arlington Free Clinic to set a $1 million fundraising goal to develop an in-house oral health program that would benefit low income adults without health insurance.

Currently, the clinic uses one dental chair at Arlington’s Department of Human Services to perform dental procedures. With the funding, the clinic hopes to rearrange their space at 2921 11th Street S., near Columbia Pike, so that three dental chairs could be installed where the pharmacy currently is, among other dental-related improvements.

The nonprofit has already raised $800,000 toward that goal, which they hope to achieve by November, and has planned upcoming events like a Bites & Blues fundraiser at Whitlow’s on Wilson on April 28.

This is not the first large donation received by the clinic. In 2011, the Arlington Free Clinic received a $677,500 gift to benefit mental health services.

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Arlington Agenda: March 12-18

Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.

Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.

Tuesday, March 13

Trivia Night: Are you smarter than a Catholic sister?*
Ireland’s Four Courts (2051 Wilson Boulevard)
Time: 6:30-9 p.m.

Test your pop culture and general knowledge against a team of Catholic Sisters, with drink specials and free appetizers. Prizes for top trivia teams.

Wednesday, March 14

Shaping Arlington for a Smart & Secure Future*
County Board Room (2100 Clarendon Blvd)
Time: 6-8 p.m.

Listen to a panel discussion on how technology will shape Arlington, featuring government and cybersecurity experts. A reception with light refreshments will also be held.

Arlington Committee of 100 Virginia Hospital Center Expansion*
Marymount University (2807 N. Glebe Road)
Time: 7-9 p.m.

The Committee of 100 is hosting a panel discussion on Virginia Hospital Center’s expansion, the county’s population growth and evolving community healthcare needs. Optional dinner served.

Thursday, March 15

Parenting Lecture: Parenting an Anxious Child
The Sycamore School (4600 N. Fairfax Drive)
Time: 7-8:30 p.m.

Dr. Christine Golden will discuss the challenges of parenting a child with anxiety and offer some helpful strategies for managing behaviors. The lecture is free to attend.

Friday, March 16

St. Agnes Soup Supper*
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 5:30-7 p.m.

The church will offer meatless soups and a noodle dish, and more every Friday during the Lenten holiday. Guests are invited to stay for confession and the stations of the cross afterwards.

Saturday, March 17

Whitlow’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
Whitlow’s On Wilson (2854 Wilson Boulevard)
Time: 9 a.m. – Close

Live Irish music and an open rooftop welcome you at Whitlow’s On Wilson’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Special Irish menu and March Madness games on the TVs all day.

WJAFC Open Day*
Virginia Highlands Park (1600 S. Hayes Street)
Time: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

A co-ed, free clinic to learn the Australian football game. Kids from 5-15 will learn starting at 9 a.m., with an adults clinic and co-ed non-contact game at 10:30 a.m.

Guinness and Gold*
Ten at Clarendon (3110 10th Street N.)
Time: 12-5 p.m.

Tour the Clarendon apartment building with a free Guinness and cash in on leasing deals. Leasing specials are subject to terms and conditions.

Wine Dinner*
Osteria da Nino (2900 S. Quincy Street)
Time: 6:30-10:30 p.m.

Join Tre Monti winery over a four course meal with five wines, including theThea Passito 2012 Romagna Albana DOCG raisin wine. Tickets are $75 per person.

Yorktown High School Presents “Almost, Maine”*
Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Boulevard)
Time: 7-9:30 p.m.

Students will be performing John Cariani’s “Almost Maine,” about a remote, mythical town and the effect of the northern lights on the lovestruck residents. Tickets are $10.

Sunday, March 18

St. Joseph’s Table Celebration
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 1-4 p.m.

Join the church following the noon mass for a procession to celebrate this feast day with a potluck lunch, live music, and a kids woodworking shop.

*Denotes featured (sponsored) event

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Kaine: Budget Deal is “Good for the Country and Good for Virginia”

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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Report Shows Disparities in Income, Health Care Across Arlington

A report has shown that areas of wealth and disadvantage exist very close together in Arlington, sometimes just blocks away from each other.

The report by the Northern Virginia Health Foundation, entitled “Getting Ahead: The Uneven Opportunity Landscape in Northern Virginia,” identifies what it calls 15 “islands of disadvantage,” where people face multiple serious challenges.

Those challenges include the levels of pre-school enrollment, teens out of high school, whether people have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, the level of English spoken in a household, unemployment rate, child poverty rate, health insurance rate and more.

Of those “islands,” three are either wholly or partly in Arlington: one near the county’s border with Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners; another along Columbia Pike in the Douglas Park neighborhood; and another in the area of Buckingham and Fort Myer.

The report also found that neighborhoods separated by one thoroughfare can have very different demographics, housing and poverty levels.

“A striking example was near Ballston Common [Mall, rebranded as Ballston Quarter], where residents in two census tracts on either side of North Glebe Road — tracts 1019 and 1020.01 — faced very different living conditions,” the report reads. “In census tract 1019, east of N. Glebe Road, 85 percent of adults had a Bachelor’s degree or higher education and the median household income exceeded $160,000 per year.

“Just west of N. Glebe Road, in tract 1020.01, 30 percent of teens ages 15-17 years were not enrolled in school, only 38 percent of adults had a Bachelor’s degree and 48 percent of the population was uninsured.”

It also found that life expectancy can vary by as much as 10 years across the county, “from 78 years in the Buckingham area to 88 years in parts of Rosslyn and Aurora Highlands.”

To help improve conditions, the report recommended better access to health care, education and affordable housing.

“In today’s knowledge economy, advancement requires better access to education — from preschool through college — and economic development to bring jobs with livable wages to disadvantaged areas,” it reads. “And it requires an investment in the infrastructure of neglected neighborhoods, to make the living environment healthier and safer, to provide transportation, and to improve public safety. What is good for our health is also good for the economy and will make Arlington County a stronger community for all of its residents.”

Courtesy image

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Beyer Leads Letter Criticizing Inaction on Rising Health Premiums

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) led a letter with more than 40 Democratic colleagues highlighting rising health insurance premiums and criticizing Congress’ inaction.

In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, 46 Democrats said the lack of action to fund cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments is hurting small business owners and the self-employed.

President Donald Trump announced he would end the payments, which help subsidize health insurance premiums, last month.

The Democrats said that House Republicans are blocking a “key solution” by not funding the CSRs through legislation, and it will only make things harder for individuals and business owners.

“We are hearing from entrepreneurs, small business owners and self-employed individuals who are being disproportionately impacted by the President’s decision,” they wrote. “We ask that you support our innovator economy and mitigate this financial burden by fulfilling cost sharing reduction payments.”

The full letter is after the jump.

Dear Speaker Ryan:

We are deeply concerned about the President’s decision to end the cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) and the devastating financial impact it will have on small businesses, working families, and the innovator economy. We ask that you commit to fund the CSRs and eliminate this barrier to innovation.

As you know, CSRs make health insurance more affordable by reducing cost sharing and out-of-pocket expenses like co-payments and deductibles in the non-group or individual market. In 2016, CSRs alleviated the cost of medical expenses for over 6.4 million enrollees. Now that President Trump has ended the Administration’s payment of the CSRs, absent a subsequent appropriation of funds or other action by Congress, we could see devastating impacts on our innovator economy.

We know that failure to fund CSRs will drive up premiums as insurers cover the cost and that some insurers will be forced out of the non-group market as a result. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) anticipate that most insurance commissioners would permit insurers to substantially increase premiums in the marketplaces. This will primarily hurt millions of middle-class individuals, like the small businesses and self-employed individuals in our districts, who earn too much to qualify for premium assistance and will bear the full brunt of any rate increase. According to the Brookings Institution, uncertainty about these payments is perhaps the biggest threat to stability in the individual market. CBO and the JCT also estimate that this action also increases the federal deficit, on net, by $194 billion from 2017 through 2026.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly one in five non-group marketplace consumers are small business owners or self-employed individuals. The Treasury Department identified non-group marketplace coverage as an important source of health insurance coverage for small business owners and the self-employed, noting that it provides insurance for a large share of self-employed individuals, particularly for middle-income workers. The UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education highlights how the CSR eligible plans enabled small business owners and self-employed individuals to more easily obtain affordable health insurance and pursue entrepreneurial goals, also indicating that options like eliminating CSRs would disproportionately hurt self-employed and small businesses of less than 50 employees.

We are hearing from entrepreneurs, small business owners, and self-employed individuals who are being disproportionately impacted by the President’s decision. We ask that you support our innovator economy and mitigate this financial burden by fulfilling cost sharing reduction payments.

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Beyer Blasts Travel Ban, Warner Wallops Healthcare Bill

Arlington’s representatives in Congress are pushing back against a new Trump administration travel ban and the latest Obamacare repeal bill.

Trump announced the new travel ban Sunday night. The administration’s previous efforts to implement a travel ban targeting certain countries deemed a security risk were hindered by legal challenges and met with widespread protests.

In a statement, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) says the new version of the ban is little improved from the previous versions.

Donald Trump cannot camouflage his Muslim Ban by adding new countries to it. Its discriminatory roots are still plainly visible. This policy is an attempt to use racial and anti-religious animus to divide people for political ends.

As with previous bans, the Administration provides no evidence that they enhance public safety. Meanwhile, the ban continues to stigmatize millions of Muslim Americans, as well as our key allies in the war on terror.

This policy has been wrong from the start, it is wrong still, and I will continue to oppose it.

Also issuing a statement last night was Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who weighed in on the latest effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Warner said the bill, which faces long odds in the Senate, would do more harm than good. He called for a bipartisan effort to lower healthcare costs and stabilize the health insurance markets.

This evening, the CBO released a score concluding millions of Americans would lose healthcare under this latest partisan repeal plan. Just hours before, S&P released a report finding that the Graham-Cassidy bill would cost our country about 580,000 jobs and $240 billion in lost economic activity over the next decade. There’s a reason why this bill is opposed by non-partisan groups from every sector of the health industry, including the American Medical Association, health insurers, hospitals, patients, the American Cancer Society, and the American Heart Association. With even the center-right think tank AEI panning both this bill and the process under which it is being rammed through Congress, it is time for the Senate to put this bill aside and recognize that we must work in a bipartisan way to stabilize the health insurance markets and put in place permanent fixes to lower costs and expand health care options for Americans. I stand ready and willing to work with any Senator, Republican or Democrat, who seriously shares that goal.

File photo

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County to Host Town Hall Discussion on Drug Awareness Next Month

“Arlington has a drug problem.”

That’s the message from a flyer for a community town hall event next month focused on “how drugs and the opioid epidemic are affecting our community.” Arlington County may be in many ways a unique community, but it is not immune to the scourge of drugs.

Attendees at the town hall, set for Thursday, October 12 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street), will hear from those “serving on the front lines,” including local law enforcement, community leaders and health care providers.

It will include a panel discussion moderated by NBC 4 anchor Jim Handley, a question and answer session with the audience and a keynote address by Virginia Beach School Board member Carolyn Weems, whose daughter died from a prescription drug overdose in 2013.

County government, Arlington Public Schools, the Arlington County Police Department and the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney are collaborating to host the town hall.

It comes after ACPD started conducting K-9 drug searches after hours in APS high schools and later said there had been 18 drug arrests on APS grounds during the first five months of the year.

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