Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Business Concerns About Mask Mandate — “Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol says she’s heard concerns from businesses owners about enforcing the mask policy. ‘We’ve definitely heard from some grocers and some others that they don’t want to be in the business of enforcing and I think you’ve seen, nationally, examples of altercations between grocery employees and individuals who don’t want to wear masks and get belligerent about it,’ Cristol said.” [NBC 4]

More Local COVID Grants — “The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia has approved $280,000 in Round 4 grants from its COVID-19 Response Fund for Northern Virginia to five organizations, including ALIVE!, Arlington Thrive, CASA de Virginia, and Northern Virginia Family Service.” [InsideNova]

Interview with Gillian Burgess — “Why hasn’t Arlington closed some streets to cars, to make more room for pedestrians and cyclists? What can be done about overcrowded trails? Should the Arlington Way move mostly online? Those are a few of the things we discussed tonight with Gillian Burgess, a local civic leader and cycling advocate.” [Facebook, Apple Podcasts]

Photo courtesy James Mahony

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(Updated at 8:10 p.m.) More than 3,500 local residents are having trouble paying their rent during the pandemic, according to a survey of nonprofits conducted by Arlington County.

The figure was included in a staff report for an item to be considered by the County Board later today.

“Arlington County conducted a survey to assess community needs related to the COVID-19 public health crisis and to inform staff recommendations for the use of funds being made available through the federal CARES Act,” the report says. “The survey was sent to 73 nonprofit organizations that serve low and moderate income residents in Arlington, with 26 responses… Of the clients served during the past month, service providers reported that over 3,500 clients were having difficulty paying the rent, with many others unable to pay utilities or access resources or school because of internet/technology issues.”

Lower-income workers have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, which has prompted mass layoffs in the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries, among others.

The county is citing its community needs survey in a plan for how to allocate supplemental Community Development Block Grant and Community Services Block Grant funding under the CARES Act — the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus and recovery bill passed in March.

The County Board is set to vote tonight on a staff proposal for allocating around $1 million in federal funding — intended to help localities respond to the coronavirus crisis — to “provide emergency rent, utility and internet assistance to prevent 200-600 households from becoming homeless.”

The funds will be dispersed by Arlington Thrive, the staff report says. Andrew Schneider, executive director of the nonprofit, tells ARLnow that needs in the community are rising.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Thrive has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of requests,” Schneider said. “We have had approximately a 150% increase in request for basic financial needs like rental assistance, utility assistance, and medical and dental assistance. We anticipate this increase in demand to continue through the summer.”

More from the report:

Based on the survey results and consultation with staff from the Department of Human Services, Department of Libraries, and Department of Technology Services, Arlington County proposes utilizing CARES funding to support an emergency assistance program to include rent, utilities and internet costs for low- and moderate-income Arlington renters who have experienced loss of income directly related to COVID-19. Monthly payments will be based on need, and will not exceed $1,500 per month per household, for up to three months. The program will be administered through Arlington Thrive, a nonprofit emergency assistance organization that will conduct outreach, handle intakes, and make emergency payments directly to landlords and/or utility companies. An estimated 200-600 Arlington households will be served by this program and may avoid eviction as a result. Additionally, Arlington Thrive will provide information on food resources to clients and community partners.

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Morning Notes

Social Distancing Decline in Arlington? — “On April 20 in Arlington County, Va., nearly half of cellphones that SafeGraph provided data for were staying at home. Over the next couple days in that suburb of Washington, D.C., the number declined to one-third — as low as it was during the middle of March. It has since increased but is still down from its peak.” [NPR]

Masks Now Required at Costco — “Costco has announced new guidelines for its stores and is requiring all customers — age 3 and older — to wear masks before entering stores beginning Monday, May 4.” [MSN]

MU Launches Program for New Economy — “Marymount has launched ‘Upskilling for the What’s Next Economy,’ a unique and comprehensive range of modular graduate certificates and degree qualifications that will provide students with technical, management, entrepreneurial and leadership skills and get them back to work.” [Marymount University]

Most of Foundation’s COVID Funds Exhausted — “Sixty-five Arlington nonprofits have received a total of nearly $800,000 in emergency response support from the Arlington Community Foundation COVID-19 Prompt Response Fund. On Giving Tuesday Now and throughout the week of May 4, the Community Foundation hopes Arlington residents and businesses will help replenish the fund to meet continuing urgent, crisis-related needs.” [Press Release]

Progress on I-66 Sound Walls — “Glad to see @VaDOT making progress on the installation of new noise barrier walls along I-66E in Arlington and Falls Church.” [@HopeforVirginia/Twitter]

School Board Candidates Worry About Accessibility — “Arlington Public Schools needs to do a better job of designing facilities that provide improved accessibility, candidates for School Board say, and should go well beyond consideration of physical disabilities in its design process.” [InsideNova]

Sims Scores Second Sitting Senator’s Support — “U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Cory Booker have announced their official endorsements for Arlington Virginia School Board candidate Terron Sims II.” [Press Release]

Campbell Elementary Teacher Featured on TV — “An Arlington County teacher is coming up with creative ways to keep her students engaged during distance learning. News4’s Leon Harris introduces Nicole Croce.” [NBC 4]

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A pair of local nonprofits have joined with Amazon to help families in Arlington’s affordable housing get access to science, technology, engineering and math resources during the pandemic.

Rosie Riveters, an Arlington-based non-profit that focuses on getting girls between 4-14 years old interested in STEM, partnered with Arlington Housing Corporation (AHC) Inc. — a local affordable housing nonprofit — and Amazon to deliver STEM kits to some families. These are kits put together by Rosie Riveters and include the materials for six different projects, access to online lessons, and additional materials like notebooks, pencils and rulers.

Rosie Riveters said Amazon donated gift cards and the supplies to assemble the kits, as well as helped to deliver them to AHC.

An initial 15 kits were given out in the first round, with 30 more planned to be delivered over the next few weeks, Rosie Riveters told ARLnow, adding that the boxes are delivered with Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) distributions.

Eight boxes were also sent to community center participants and the supplies for 60 more boxes will be delivered over the next few days and distributed to other program partners.

“Rosie Riveters is proud to work with Amazon and AHC Inc. to bring fun and engaging STEM kits and essential learning materials to children in need,” said Brittany Greer, Executive Director of Rosie Riveters, in a statement. “Now more than ever enrichment opportunities like these are vitally important. We can not thank Amazon enough for helping to provide the resources and logistics needed to allow Rosie Riveters to continue our mission to engage and inspire girls aged 4-14 in STEM.”

Photo courtesy Rosie Riveters

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Morning Notes

County Board Candidates So Far — “Announced Arlington County Board special election (to replace Erik Gutshall, who sadly was forced to resign while being treated for brain cancer) Democratic candidates… so far are: Barbara Kanninen; Chanda Choun; Nicole Merlene.” [Blue Virginia]

Arlington Allocates $300k for Emergency Help — “Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz has allocated $300,000 from the FY 2020 budget to meet increased demand for emergency financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The money will be provided from the FY 2020 budget contingency fund to Arlington Thrive, a nonprofit that provides financial assistance to County residents who experience sudden crisis.” [Arlington County]

Gov. Northam’s Reopening Conditions — “Gov. Ralph Northam offered what he called a ‘blueprint’ Friday for easing business restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lifting of restrictions will include a phased approach based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Beyond a steady decline in new cases, the state will also have to increase testing and contact tracing, while ensuring hospitals have the necessary capacity, Northam said.” [InsideNova]

Group Urges Northam to Take More Action — “We respectfully request that you immediately implement the following low-cost, high-impact actions: Empower local governments… Maximize social distancing… Expand mask usage… Deploy approaches that have worked elsewhere to cheaply scale up testing… Leverage volunteers to cheaply scale up contact tracing… Convert unused college dormitories into voluntary isolation facilities… Implement ‘safe travel’ rules to prevent importation of new cases.” [EndCoronavirus.org, Google Docs]

Arlington History Jigsaw Puzzles — “In Arlington County there are locally-designated historic districts, which provide the greatest protection for our historic resources… In order to celebrate these locally designated districts AND to provide some relief during the COVID-19 quarantine/stay-at-home order from our local and state governments, Preservation Arlington has put together two collections of online puzzles.” [Preservation Arlington, Jigsaw Planet]

History of Arlington Meteor Caper — A dull black meteorite, found in Murray, Kentucky, in 1950, had gone missing from a Vanderbilt observatory display case, replaced by a suspicious-looking black-painted papier-mache rock… law enforcement sleuths had found fingerprints traced to former observatory employee and student Hugh Heefner Howard, 24. The perpetrator had brought it to his Arlington River House apartment at 1111 Army-Navy Dr., where our cops arrested him for grand larceny.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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Our neighbors are hurting and they need your support.

The COVID-19 crisis is creating massive economic and health distress that is putting increased pressure on already stressed medical and social services. Arlington Thrive is the only organization in Arlington County that provides rapid same-day financial support to our neighbors in dire need.

Arlington Thrive has created the Arlington Emergency Relief Fund to address this unprecedented crisis. With your support of the Arlington Emergency Relief Fund, Arlington Thrive will make all the difference. Donations to Arlington Emergency Relief Fund will prevent people from descending into hardship from which they might never recover.

To make a difference and help your neighbors who are in the most dire need today, please donate to the AREF today. Together, with your contributions, Arlington will truly Thrive.

Donate now to Arlington Thrive

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Morning Notes

Pentagon Mandates Face Masks — “All on the Pentagon reservation must wear cloth face coverings in open spaces/work spaces where it is difficult to maintain at least 6 ft social distance. You may remove cloth face coverings in a private office/workspace where at least 6 ft of social distance is maintained.” [Twitter]

County May Host Online ‘Open Door’ Sessions — “Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey announced today that the Board will pilot a virtual format for Open Door Mondays, the informal weekly sessions where individuals or small groups can meet one-on-one with a Board Member to raise any issue, on Monday, April 13, 2020.” [Arlington County]

I-66 Lane Closures This Weekend — “Single- and double-lane closures will be needed for bridge joint reconstruction work over Williamsburg Boulevard and Westmoreland Street. At least one travel lane along I-66 Eastbound will be maintained at all times during this work.” [Press Release]

County Accelerates Columbia Pike Work — “Starting Monday, April 13, we will no longer open an additional eastbound lane during weekday morning rush hours. As a result, the work done between S. Jefferson Street and S. Dinwiddie/Columbus Street will only have one lane open in each direction on weekdays from 7 a.m.-9 p.m.” [Twitter]

South Block Adapts to Delivery and Takeout — “Mostafavi founded South Block in 2011 and he’s slowly grown the business since then, with nine locations and two more in the pipeline. Since the pandemic forced closures of dining rooms, Mostafavi has leaned hard into the delivery and takeout side of his business. ‘I feel fortunate to be in a business that’s still considered essential and that we already had an app, were already doing deliveries and the product is desired right now because it’s healthy,’ Mostafavi said.” [Washington Business Journal]

CPRO Providing Free Banners for Businesses — “The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization is launching several new initiatives to support our business community… Are you operating an essential business on Columbia Pike? Need help letting the public know you’re open? Contact us today to receive a FREE banner.” [CPRO, Instagram]

Arlington Pension Investment Chief Retiring — “Daniel E. Zito, executive director and chief investment officer of the $2.5 billion Arlington County (Va.) Employees’ Retirement System, plans to retire in the next year.” [Pensions & Investments]

Community Foundation Distributes $500k — “More than 40 Arlington nonprofits have received a total of over $500,000 in emergency response support from the Arlington Community Foundation COVID-19 Prompt Response Fund, with more funds being disbursed daily.” [Press Release]

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The Arlington Community Foundation has provided more than $300,000 in emergency support this week, as the coronavirus crisis deepens.

The distribution of funds comes after the nonprofit refocused its Prompt Response Fund to support other local nonprofit organizations that can provide emergency food supplies to those in need, healthcare for the uninsured or underinsured, and support for hourly workers who have been laid off or furloughed.

The Arlington Community Foundation recently received a $1 million grant from Amazon, with $350,000 earmarked specifically for use in Arlington and the rest to be spent around the region in other community foundations. The Arlington-based Washington Forrest Foundation has contributed 25 percent of each grant awarded by the Arlington Community Foundation.

The largest amount, $25,000, went to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). AFAC has been on the frontlines of the pandemic, trying to get food and supplies to an increasing number of Arlingtonians without an income to pay for groceries.

“We heard loud and clear from our nonprofit partners that they needed to get funds into the hands of the helpers in our community quickly, as this is a time of exceptional need for our neighbors who are experiencing job loss and other crisis situations,” said Arlington Community Foundation CEO and President Jennifer Owens said in the press release. “Our network of nonprofit safety net providers has responded quickly, as have the many generous people in our community who have pitched in to help with contributions of time, talent, and treasure. We owed it to them to move swiftly to support their efforts.”

Owens said the Arlington Community Foundation is continuing to review requests daily and sending awards by direct deposit.

“As the community needs evolve, I’m confident our use of the funds will evolve to meet those needs,” Owens said. “We continue to receive worthy applications as fast as we can respond, and we hope that businesses and individuals will continue to view the Prompt Response Fund as a way to effectively support the nonprofits who are providing crucial support for Arlington’s most vulnerable residents.”

Donations can be made online to the Prompt Response Fund.

The full list of recipients is below, after the jump.

Read More

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(Updated at 5 p.m.) While Arlington teachers put together grocery gift cards for low-income families and nonprofits band together to address the economic impacts of the coronavirus, several local restaurateurs and the nonprofit Real Food for Kids are working to provide meals to families hit by the pandemic.

Chef David Guas, the owner of Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road) in Courthouse, has partnered with Real Food for Kids — a nonprofit that aims to promote healthy diets for children — to provide free, plant-based meals for Arlington children and their families.

Starting Tuesday, Guas committed to serving free lunches from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. during weekdays while Arlington Public Schools are closed, Real Food for Kids said in an email. This week the featured meal is New Orleans-style red beans and rice. Non-profit Fruitful Planet, associated with regional juice chain South Block, is also offering fresh fruit to accompany the meals.

“This is a complement to Arlington Public Schools’ efforts to serve at-risk families who are used to relying on the school lunch program,” a spokesperson for the organization said. “Many of these parents’ jobs are at risk due to the coronavirus, making a bad situation worse.”

Donations to help sustain the program can be made online. Other local organizations like the Arlington Food Assistance Center are also seeking assistance to provide food for those in need.

Separately, Joe’s Place Pizza & Pasta (5555 Lee Highway) is also offering free cheese pizzas and fresh salads to those most affected by the school closings and job cutbacks, starting tonight from 5-7 p.m. According to a press release, staff will deliver the food to the hood of cars to limit personal contact and maintain social distancing.

Medium Rare, meanwhile, has been delivering free meals to vulnerable seniors in the D.C. area since last week. The steak frites restaurant has a location in Virginia Square.

Even while hurting financially themselves, other restaurants throughout the region have been putting together specials and free meals to help families that frequently rely on school lunches have access to food during the pandemic.

Photo courtesy Real Food for Kids

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(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) As Arlingtonians scramble to stock up on emergency supplies to weather the coronavirus pandemic, some local nonprofits that are helping those most in need are starting to see the strain on the county’s most vulnerable populations.

“We’re still trying to get used to the new reality,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of Arlington Thrive, a nonprofit that provides emergency funding to people in crisis. “We’re trying to figure out how dire the situation is for Arlingtonians, not just [in terms of] health but also economic [situations].”

Schneider said Arlington Thrive and many of the other local nonprofits like A-SPAN and AFAC are collaborating closely to try to assess where needs are highest. The local nonprofits are benefitting, Schneider said, from a few years of community leaders laying the groundwork to provide immediate help across their organizations in the event of an emergency.

“There’s a lot of collaboration going on led primarily by Arlington County and the other community foundations,” Schneider said. “Thrive, like most nonprofits, has been leaning that direction and moving even closer during this crisis. This afternoon I’m on a conference call with 22 other nonprofit executive directors and the director of human services to talk about community-wide response.”

Though things look pretty bleak nationally, Schneider said he’s still staying inspired by local acts of kindness and charity.

“We’ve seen an outpouring of support from the community but also seeing a lot of people who just want to try to make a difference,” Schneider said. “You see these awesome things that teachers are doing and Facebook groups popping up, so we’re trying to help people identify where the need is greatest and channel resources to that… but no matter how good the nonprofit, at some point demand is going to outstrip that.”

Currently, Schneider said the most immediate needs in the short term are for food and, with schools out, child care.

“The dire need right now is for child care assistance and, frankly, because of the anticipated need at AFAC there’s assistance for funding for food,” Schneider said. “Secondly, what we’re trying to do is prepare ourselves for what will be the long term, six-month impact. Even after the quarantine and the immediate crisis ends as people are still out of work or the economy gets back up, they’re going to be turning to Thrive.”

Last week, as the coronavirus crisis was ramping up, the organization announced that it had received $60,000 from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Thrive’s largest private grant ever. In this time of need, however, it will only go so far.

Schneider said Thrive is currently raising money for emergencies like rental assistance, medical assistance, and utility assistance for people who may have just lost their primary income. While Virginia has suspended non-emergency evictions, there’s still the threat that people could be forced out of their homes as soon as that’s lifted.

“People are already in a position where they’re struggling to make those payments,” Schneider said. “I worry about the need being so great in our community that we’re all going to be overwhelmed, which is why you’re seeing that partnership and collaboration.

Donations can be made to Thrive online. Schneider said people who want to help their community could also volunteer at Volunteer Arlington or donate to the Arlington Community Foundation.

File photo

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Amazon, Arlington’s new neighbor, has donated $1 million in “emergency COVID-19 response funds” to four large D.C. area community foundations.

Among those to benefit are the Arlington Community Foundation.

“The donation will be used to provide resources to organizations working with communities disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and the economic consequences of the outbreak — including hourly workers, people experiencing homelessness, and the elderly,” the company said on its blog.

Amazon “is also providing additional cash and in-kind support to five food service providers in the Washington D.C. region,” including the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

“The Washington, D.C. area is our new home, and we must rally together to support our neighbors during this difficult time,” said Amazon PR and policy chief Jay Carney. “In addition to making sure our Amazon customers can get the essentials they need, we will support our community partners who are doing life-saving work. Amazon’s $1 million donation to these four community groups will provide fast, flexible support to those who need it most and encourage a wave of additional community donations during this unprecedented time.”

“We know that we are stronger together and hope this gift will inspire others to jump in and do what they can to improve outcomes for our neighbors in need,” Jennifer Owens, president and CEO of the Arlington Community Foundation said in a statement.

“We hope this is the first of many donations by Amazon and our other corporate citizens who recognize the need to partner with County government, and Arlington non-profits during this public health crisis,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey.

Aside from Arlington, the funds will also be used in Alexandria; D.C.; Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland; plus Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William counties and the cities of Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park.

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