The saga of slow mail delivery in Arlington continues.
Now, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D) is bringing the county’s issues to the federal government.
There have been grumblings for years of spotty mail delivery service in parts of Arlington. Locals frequently post stories of their problems getting or sending mail on the social media platform Nextdoor.
Now, Kaine is asking the United States Postal Service to review these frustrating experiences and provide explanations and a list of steps USPS will take to fix them.
“I am concerned that Virginia communities as far-flung as Smyth County in Southwest Virginia, the Richmond area (nearly 300 miles away from Chilhowie by highway), and Arlington, across the river from Washington, D.C., are all experiencing missing bills, medications, tax documents, and days/weeks without mail,” Kaine wrote in a letter — which he sent electronically.
“My constituents are understandably frustrated and eager to know if help is on the way. I appreciate any information you can share,” he continued.
Kaine referenced one specific story he heard from an Arlingtonian who “repeatedly went several days without mail over the period of several months and did not receive specific items, including a Virginia Auto Registration from the DMV and a Virginia Driver’s license.”
In the letter, he included the response from USPS:
After investigation and consultation with local management, it has been found that the office may experience delivery delays due to employee availability issues. However, they are taking the steps necessary to ensure every effort has been made to deliver the mail daily. The route in which your constituent resides is current however delivery on this route maybe later in the day. Once again, please allow us to apologize for the unfortunate customer experience.
His letter also detailed issues from other parts of the state, including missed mail or infrequent or late-at-night delivery as well as never-returned phone calls requesting assistance.
“I request that you review these concerns, provide information on how these are being addressed, and share what factors are causing what appear to be systemic challenges with processing mail promptly and getting it successfully to the right place,” he said.
Within the last week, one Colonial Village resident took to Nextdoor to say it took two weeks for a check to go no more than four miles as the crow flies.
“I can top that,” a neighbor replied. “My mother in law showed us two pieces of mail that she just got returned to her. The postmark was from 2021.”
“A few months ago I mailed a letter 2-day Priority, Signature Required at the 22204 Post Office,” a third user said. “It took 8 days to get to a 22201 address!”
Some users were more optimistic, calling on neighbors to increase their use of USPS.
“We should keep using the Postal system because the more we use it, the more funding there is, the better the service will get,” wrote one woman.
Another issued a recruiting call to arms.
“Let’s spread the word to older teens and twenty-somethings looking for work that not just the Post Office, but the Federal Gov’t itself needs sufficient numbers of good public servants in order to run well,” she said.
(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Today is the first day high school-aged Arlington Public Schools students can carry naloxone in schools.
Students in grades 9 and above can now carry the opioid reversal drug if they have consent from a parent or guardian, according to the school system. Those who are at least 18 years old can also provide consent if they wish.
The policy change comes four months after the fatal overdose of a 14-year-old at Wakefield High School in January. The death of Sergio Flores has led to calls for changes at APS by teachers, parents and School Board members — including a push to have more naloxone in schools and to let kids carry it.
Any student who carries the overdose-reversing drug — the most well-known brand of which is the nasal spray Narcan — must provide the day they were trained and agree to call 911 and notify school staff if used in school or at a school activity, per a presentation to the School Board last night (Thursday).
Consent may be provided through an online authorization form or via the family portal ParentVue, an option APS says will be available by the end of the day today.
Students who need training may attend training hosted by Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative on Thursday, June 1 at Washington-Liberty High School from 7-8 p.m. Another training session is planned for the week of June 5.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) came to Arlington today to discuss substance use and the fentanyl crisis. He participated in a roundtable at National Capital Treatment and Recovery (521 N. Quincy Street), an addiction treatment center in the Ballston area.
This facility is preparing to resume offering options for teens seven years after ending its youth programs. Those services will begin June 5, a spokesman for the center told ARLnow Friday afternoon.
Consumption of fentanyl — a powerful synthetic opioid that can be prescribed or taken illegally — contributed to the deaths of nearly 2,000 Virginians in 2022, per a press release announcing Kaine’s visit.
While the number of fatal, fentanyl-involved overdoses in Arlington was not readily available, as of last Thursday, there have been seven fatal overdoses so far in 2023, according to publicly available county data.
This year there have been a total of 61 opioid incidents, of which 22 were overdoses and the rest were possession and distribution cases, according to county data.
As fentanyl-related deaths have risen, the federal government has responded with calls for de-stigmatizing addiction and for increased access to naloxone. Two months ago, the Food and Drug Administration approved an over-the-counter version of the nasal spray Narcan.
Arlington County, meanwhile, has joined lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies linked to the opioid crisis, putting settlements toward treatment. It reexamined its teen programming to provide youth and young adults with more positive experiences and steer them away from drug use.
Last week, Kaine introduced legislation with Joni Ernst, a Republican senator from Iowa, to declare fentanyl trafficking a national security threat and direct the Pentagon to work with other federal agencies and Mexican officials to tackle drug trafficking by transnational criminal organizations, the release said.
Kaine says he is also pressing the federal government to dedicate more resources to the crisis and ease access buprenorphine, which, like methadone, is used in addiction therapy to replace the effects of a stronger substances.
Additionally, the senator joined other lawmakers in asking Meta — which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — to address drug trafficking on its platforms.
Election Day is here, and thousands of residents are hitting the polls — manned by 426 volunteers — to cast their ballots in the 2022 mid-term election.
By 9 a.m., about 10% of Arlington voted in-person, according to the county elections office, in addition to the 13% of people who voted early and in-person and 7% who voted by mail.
“The polls have been steady so far this morning,” said Tania Griffin, spokeswoman for the Arlington Office of Voter Registration and Elections.
Turnout in a midterm is typically about half the turnout of a presidential election, Arlington Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer previously told ARLnow.
Just over 20,000 people voted early in this year’s general election, Griffin said. Combined with the more than 11,000 absentee ballots sent in, Virginia Public Access Project says Arlington’s early voting rate surpasses those for Northern Virginia and the state. (Nearly 5,000 have not returned the mail ballots they requested.)
In 2018, the last midterm election, 21,147 ballots were cast early, per VPAP.
While early voting got off to a muted start to in September, and was “slightly slower” than last year’s election, local and statewide Democrats celebrated early voting numbers yesterday during a rally at the home of Matt de Ferranti, the Democrat Arlington County Board incumbent running for re-election.
“The trends are positive, particularly in the three parts of the state that have really competitive congressional districts. We see high numbers, and we really see good Democratic advantage in the early vote,” said U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who came out for the rally. “We really like what we’re seeing.”
In the local U.S. House race, Arlington voters can choose among Democrat incumbent Rep. Don Beyer and his two challengers for the 8th District, Republican Karina Lipsman and independent Teddy Fikre.
Kaine said one top driver for races this year is the economy, which he characterized as a mixed bag.
“You have inflation but you have historic job growth. Inflation might make you worry if there’s a downturn coming, but then you see how strong job growth is — during Biden’s term, 10 million-plus jobs, manufacturing coming back, big job announcements with Amazon,” he said. “I think the evidence will be mixed.”
Among the countywide races, voters can choose between two School Board candidates — independent, Sun Gazette-endorsed James “Vell” Rives IV and Arlington County Democratic Committee-endorsed Bethany Sutton.
In Arlington, the most watched race this year is likely that for County Board, which has become a showdown on the topic of Missing Middle housing — the proposal to open up single-family zoning to smaller-scale multifamily housing.
De Ferranti said that could have driven the relatively higher early voting showing.
“The early vote we’re seeing is so stepped up that we’ll have to see what the total turnout is,” de Ferranti said. “This is greater turnout than 2018 so far, and I think some of that is the discussion we’re having on housing.”
His challengers for County Board — frequent independent candidate Audrey Clement and second-time candidate Adam Theo — say Missing Middle is a litmus test this election.
“After squeezing in last minute doorknocking yesterday, and all the responses I’m receiving this morning at precincts, I’m feeling very optimistic for the campaign and the success of the Missing Middle housing proposal,” Theo told ARLnow.
Arlington Resident Moving to San Diego — Baseball superstar Juan Soto, who recently moved to Arlington, has been traded by the Nats to the San Diego Padres. He’ll presumably take with him some photos and art that were framed at a Clarendon frame store. [MLB]
Fairfax Barricade Ends — Updated at 9:25 a.m. — A man reportedly barricaded in a condo with a rifle near Lake Barcroft has been taken into custody. The barricade situation prompted a Fairfax County police helicopter to circle over parts of Arlington for hours. [FFXnow, Twitter]
County Getting Part of Opioid Settlement — “It’s not a princely sum, but cash is cash and the Arlington County government is set to receive its share of a new payment based on a legal settlement with a number of opioid distributors… Of the first settlement payout, about $9.94 million will go to the state government’s Opioid Abatement Authority and about $4.07 million will be distributed to localities. Arlington is entitled to 1.378 percent of that latter figure, which works out to $56,034.” [Sun Gazette]
Ballston Quarter Gets Small Tax Break — “Owners of the Ballston Quarter retail-restaurant-and-entertainment complex came away from a recent Board of Equalization hearing with a very partial victory, as that body reduced the property’s assessed valuation but not nearly as much as its owners had sought. On a unanimous vote, Board of Equalization members on July 13 voted to reduce the assessment rate – which is used to calculate the property’s annual tax bill – from $91.1 million as determined by staff to $86.7 million.” [Sun Gazette]
Va. Sens. Celebrate Vets Bill — “Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine celebrated Senate passage of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 following obstruction efforts by Senate Republicans last week. This legislation will expand health care and benefits for toxic-exposed veterans under the Department of Veterans Affairs.” [Sen. Mark Warner]
YHS Grads Makes Youth National Team — “Yorktown High School graduate Lauren Flynn was named to the U.S. Under-20 Women’s Youth National Team soccer roster for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica from Aug. 10-28.” [Sun Gazette]
Feedback Sought for Eco Plan — “Arlington County would like your input on the draft Forestry and Natural Resources Plan. To assure future generations of Arlingtonians enjoy the benefits of nature, the County must identify what needs are urgent, what are aspirational, and how each can be addressed through both long-term initiatives, incremental change and immediate action.” [Arlington County]
Crash in D.C. Shut Down Chain Bridge — From WTOP’s Dave Dildine: “Chain Bridge closed both ways along with Canal Road and Clara Barton Parkway at the bridge. A crash occurred when traffic signals were malfunctioning. Witnesses say an officer was struck under the malfunctioning signals. These lights fall out of phase frequently.” [Twitter]
It’s Wednesday — Another hot and humid day. High of 90 and low of 71. Sunrise at 6:13 am and sunset at 8:19 pm. [Weather.gov]
(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) Local lawmakers have again introduced legislation to officially remove Robert E. Lee’s name from Arlington House.
For fifty years, “Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial” has been the official name for the National Park Service-managed mansion that sits on top of a hill at Arlington National Cemetery.
But in recent years, there has been a push to drop Lee’s name from the memorial and return it to its original name of simply “Arlington House.”
In 2020, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va) proposed legislation to do just that since Arlington House lies in his district. The bill was co-sponsored by two other local representatives, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va) and Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va), along with D.C. Congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Beyer said at the time that the legislation was partially inspired by requests for a name change from descendants of those who were enslaved at Arlington House. However, the bill never got out of committee and no change was made.
Two years later, though, these local lawmakers are trying again with a bicameral push.
The House bill is co-sponsored by Beyer, Connelly, Wexton, and Norton while a new Senate bill is sponsored by Tim Kaine (D-Va). The legislation, if passed and signed into law, would strip the Confederate general’s name from the house he once lived in.
“If we are serious about ending racial disparities, we need to stop honoring those who fought to protect slavery,” Kaine said in a press release. “I’m proud to be part of the effort to rename Arlington House, and am going to keep fighting for the kinds of reforms we need to create a society that delivers liberty and justice for all.”
This year’s bills are very similar to the one from 2020, Beyer Communications Director Aaron Fritschner confirmed to ARLnow, save for small language changes including adding a formal historic site designation.
If the legislation does pass, the mansion would officially be called “The Arlington House National Historic Site.”
The building that now sits inside Arlington National Cemetery was first built by enslaved people in the early 19th century to be the residence for George Washington Parke Custis. It was also intended to be a memorial to George Washington, Custis’s adoptive grandfather.
Custis’s daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis married Robert E. Lee in 1831. The soon-to-be Confederate general was known to be a cruel and sometimes violent head of the household.
During the Civil War, the Union Army seized the house as well as the grounds and turned it into a military cemetery.
In 1955, Congress passed legislation to designate the house as the “Custis-Lee Mansion.” The name was changed again in 1972 to what it is today, “Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial.”
For years, Arlington House was featured prominently in the county’s logo. That changed last year after a push to remove the house from the logo, in large part due to its formal name and association with Lee.
(An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Lee’s relationship to the house and property.)
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Rep. Don Beyer joined the leaders of Boeing and Virginia Tech at the former’s Crystal City headquarters this morning to announce a new veterans initiative.
The announcement that drew the state’s top elected officials was the creation of the Boeing Center for Veteran Transition and Military Families at the new Virginia Tech Innovation Campus at Potomac Yard in Alexandria, just down the road.
It comes just over a month after Boeing announced that its existing Crystal City office campus would become the company’s global headquarters. While the move will only result in a relatively small shift of personnel from the existing headquarters in Chicago, it was highly touted by Youngkin, Warner and other elected officials.
“Boeing’s recent announcement to move its headquarters to Virginia and reaffirm its commitment to building the next generation of tech talent is a timely development for the Commonwealth, and is made more exciting by their extensive partnership with Virginia Tech,” Youngkin said in a statement.
“Their pledge to create the Boeing Center for Veteran Transition and Military Families ensures that the Commonwealth and its businesses continue to invest in diverse career pathways for veterans and students alike, all the while helping businesses thrive,” the governor continued.
The new Boeing Center, part of the company’s previously-announced $50 million investment into Virginia Tech’s new campus, is set to provide veterans with “economic and workforce programs,” mental health resources, and community service opportunities, according to a separate news release from Boeing.
“This is just a very important service that our military veterans need, a big assist to get into civilian life and to pursue civilian livelihoods, and to pursue tech degrees and all those things,” Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said during the announcement.
“Virginia has about 725,000 veterans that call Virginia their home, 155,000 active duty, reserve and National Guardsmen, and I’m biased, I want them to stay in Virginia,” Youngkin said during the announcement.
In addition to the veterans center, Boeing also plans to provide scholarships to Innovation Campus students, facilitate the recruitment of faculty and researchers, and fund STEM initiatives to underserved K-12 students.
“I hope it gets very big,” Calhoun said. “Just suffice to say, we’re going to take advantage of this location and try to attract as many young people as we possibly can to this trade and to our company.”
The press release from the governor’s office is below.
Only days before graduation, Wakefield High School students questioned Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) about what can be done to pass gun legislation in Congress
Kaine paid a visit to Wakefield on Monday afternoon, in the wake of another school shooting, to speak with students about gun violence and increasing safety in their classrooms. He was joined in the school’s library by about 30 students as well as Arlington School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen and Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Francisco Durán.
It was four years ago when Kaine came to Wakefield to talk about the same thing.
After speaking for about 15 minutes, the Virginia senator took questions from the students — many of whom were seniors and only about ten days from graduation. The students questioned the senator about Congress’s inaction, filibustering, bans on assault rifles, and the specific impact gun violence has on communities of color.
“Why are we having the same conversations over and over again?” asked one student.
“Assault rifles are often used in shootings and their purpose is to kill as many people as possible. So, what work has been done [in banning them]?” questioned another.
“What can we do to stop this endless cycle? We protest… and nothing happens,” another student asked, clearly emotional.
Kaine listened and answered each one, expressing optimism that at least some legislation might be passed in the coming weeks that could expand background checks and red flag laws. However, he agreed with the skepticism of some of the students.
“I have to admit, I do have a little feeling of skepticism, not despondency, but I have a little feeling of skepticism,” he said. “We’ve been here before and tried this… but we can’t give up.”
Kaine brought a number of times the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting that happened when he was governor. It was as an event, he said, that “scared” him and made him realize the needed urgency for gun control laws.
He also frequently touted the “Virginia Plan to Reduce Gun Violence Act,” a measure that he and fellow Virginia Sen. Mark Warner introduced last year. It’s based on a series of state bills in Virginia which were signed into law in 2020, calling for universal background checks, a 30-day wait period between handgun purchases, and prohibiting those with protective orders from possessing a firearm. Notably, though, the bills didn’t ban assault weapons or high capacity magazines.
Kaine also called using the Second Amendment as reasoning for not expanding background checks, enforcing wait periods, and limiting the size of magazines as a “poppycock argument.”
“You can’t take away completely people’s right to bear arms, but you can impose reasonable regulations,” he said.
Members of Congress from Virginia are pushing the federal government to help fund proposed changes to Route 1.
The changes, while still being hashed out by VDOT and local officials, would lower elevated portions of Route 1 through Crystal City to grade, turning it into a lower-speed “urban boulevard.” VDOT is also mulling at least one pedestrian bridge or tunnel at 18th Street S., near the Metro station, to improve safety.
With the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 on track to open in Pentagon City in 2023, state and local officials see a need to turn the area — collectively known as National Landing — into a more cohesive downtown and economic center. Key to that vision is revamping Route 1, also known as Richmond Highway, which effectively separates Pentagon City from Crystal City.
At last check, cost estimates for the project were around $200 million.
Northern Virginia’s congressional delegation would like to see the feds foot much of the bill, through funding from the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill.
In a joint letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, the lawmakers say argue that the Route 1 project meets all criteria for funding through the infrastructure bill.
“This grant request will allow Virginia to convert the Route 1 corridor in Arlington into a multimodal urban boulevard that prioritizes pedestrian safety in a walkable environment,” the wrote. “VDOT is developing multimodal solutions for Route 1 to meet National Landing’s transportation needs with the coming of Amazon and other related developments.”
The letter was signed by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), along with Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), and Robert Wittman (R-Va.).
“The Commonwealth’s commitment to Amazon is to improve safety, accessibility, and the pedestrian experience crossing Route 1,” the lawmakers wrote. “Investment in National Landing will produce significant, measurable benefits to the economy, health, and safety of local citizens… This project satisfies all the merit criteria outlined in the federal grant opportunity, especially the priorities of providing economic, state of good repair, environmental, and equity benefits.
The letter also argues for the project’s fiscal benefits, including reducing bridge maintenance costs and providing acres of additional land for development.
“The transformation of Route 1 to an urban boulevard includes the removal of three bridge structures from the VDOT inventory, which will reduce long term maintenance costs,” the letter said. “Modifications to the I-395 interchange will remove a structurally deficient bridge and avoid future replacement or rehabilitation costs, while also extending the urban boulevard to the north which will contribute to lower speeds.”
“[The project] increases the accessibility to job centers through the proposed access improvements, which will benefit residents of all income levels,” the letter continues. “The project will create approximately 6.5 acres of excess right-of-way resulting in high value developable land.”
Another hoped-for benefit: fewer cars and better safety features.
“It will reduce the need for single-occupancy vehicle trips in favor of environmentally friendly options such as enhanced transit service, walkability, biking routes,” said the letter. “The project also includes multiple innovative solutions, such as a progressive design-build strategy and a pilot safety project to implement near-miss crash technology in National Landing.”
The completion of VDOT’s Phase 2 study of the proposed changes is currently expected to wrap up in early 2023. While the project has general support from the county and the business community, some residents have expressed concerns about whether taking away overpasses in favor of at-grade crossings actually makes things more dangerous for pedestrians.
Much of the congressional delegation, led by Kaine, also wrote a letter to Buttigieg supporting funding for an I-64 connector to ease congestion between Richmond and Hampton Roads.
Board Calls Out Youngkin’s Auditor Veto — “The Arlington County Board said Wednesday that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s veto of its police oversight bill was ‘deeply frustrating.'” [WTOP, Arlington County]
Sen. Kaine Has Long Covid — “Sen. Tim Kaine got covid-19 in the spring of 2020, and nearly two years later he still has mild symptoms.
‘I tell people it feels like all my nerves have had like five cups of coffee,’ Kaine said Wednesday of his ’24/7′ tingling sensation, just after introducing legislation intended to expand understanding of long covid.” [Washington Post]
Volunteers Clean Up Muddy Trail –From the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail: “Before and after of the Gravelly Point mud puddle which was removed by volunteers on Saturday while edging the trail. Make a difference on the trail when you register for one of our upcoming volunteer events.” [Twitter]
It’s Thursday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 53 and low of 35. Sunrise at 6:39 am and sunset at 6:05 pm. [Weather.gov]
Many locals haven’t been getting their mail in a timely fashion recently and Virginia’s U.S. Senators are deeply concerned.
Yesterday (Feb. 1), Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine sent a letter to the U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy asking why there has been such considerable delays on folks getting their mail.
“We have heard from hundreds of our constituents that recount unacceptable delays in the delivery of everything from Christmas and birthday cards to mail-order medications and credit card bills,” wrote the Senators. “Furthermore, we seek answers about operational decisions and other circumstances that have contributed to such delays and what is being done to prevent future failures.”
Additionally, they asked for the publishing of data about the number of postal workers that have contracted COVID-19 and expediting the delivery of mail-order medications.
The lawmakers note that they believe policy changes implemented this past summer by DeJoy could be contributing.
There was local pushback about these policies, including a rally outside of the Westover post office on Washington Blvd.
When initially calling out these changes — also in a letter — the Senators were then promised that these cost-cutting measures would not be implemented until after the November presidential election.
However, even after the election, these implemented changes have caused a significant delay in mail getting to recipients, particularly to those in the Capitol region, according to court filings.
From Dec. 19 to 31, according to statistics in the filings that the Senators cited in their letter, Northern Virginia residents received less than half of their first class mail on-time. While the holiday crush is surely to be a contributing factor, rates started dropping in mid-September.
This is a dramatic drop-off from even the week of Sept. 5 when residents were getting 88.5% of their first class mail. Even earlier in the pandemic — mid-March through July — about 91% of first class mail was getting to locals in a timely fashion.
The Senators wrote that they have heard from constituents that mail is continually getting stuck at the USPS Processing and Distribution Center in Richmond, sometimes for weeks at a time.
A recent audit by the USPS Inspector General revealed that the Richmond distribution center had the fourth-highest late trip rate of any in the country from July 1 to Sept. 30.
Additionally, from Nov. 1 to Nov. 19, the center underestimated incoming mail volume by two-thirds.
Warner and Kaine blame insufficient staffing and capacity at the distribution center.
“We understand this is likely due to staffing shortages but implore you to create additional contingency plans to ensure a particular delivery route does not miss its mail for days at a time simply because its letter carrier is out sick,” they wrote.
Concluding the letter, Warner and Kaine urge DeJoy to “reverse all operational and organizational changes that have contributed to substantial mail delays.”
This isn’t the only bit of Arlington mail news in recent months. In October, a postal inspector was seen checking drop-off mailboxes at the N. George Mason Drive post office amidst complaints of missing and stolen mail.
The entire letter sent by Sens. Warner and Kaine is below.
Arlington County is slated to receive nearly $2.3 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support the distribution of coronavirus vaccines, Virginia’s U.S. Senators announced on Tuesday.
The money will go toward storage supplies, transportation support, staffing, personal protective equipment, and other equipment to ensure facilities align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said a joint press release from Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.
“We’re glad to see these federal dollars go toward helping Arlington County effectively administer the COVID-19 vaccine,” the senators said in a joint statement. “We will keep working to ensure the Commonwealth has the resources it needs to best respond to this pandemic.”
News of the funding comes on the heels of announcements that local hospitals like Inova and Virginia Hospital Center will no longer be distribution sites, at least for now. Since then, county staff have worked to get 3,750 appointments from VHC transferred to the County’s vaccine management system, said Aaron Miller, the county’s emergency management director.
Despite this, Miller said Arlington County is prepared to vaccinate about 2,000 people daily. Unfortunately, he said, the county can only make 540 appointments a day because it is receiving 2,750 vaccines per week from the state.
“This funding demonstrates exactly how ready Arlington is,” Miller told ARLnow. “That the federal government would grant this type of advanced reimbursement based on our plans and capabilities — as quickly as supply can meet — demonstrates that we have the capability.”
The only thing standing in the county’s way, at this point, is the vaccine supply itself, he said.
“I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.
Under Gov. Ralph Northam’s Major Disaster Declaration to help Virginia respond to COVID-19, localities can apply to FEMA for funding to support vaccine distribution, the release said. Arlington County is the first of the Commonwealth’s localities to apply for and receive the funding.
With the money, the County will purchase more cold storage for the vaccine doses, Miller said. Right now it has some smaller travel-sized unit, and additional upright, ultra-cold storage is supposed to be arriving in a week or so, Miller said. He said his department needs more cold storage to have the flexibility to set up additional vaccine clinics.
Miller’s department will also expand vaccine outreach and engagement efforts. He said more people are needed to handle calls from residents to schedule appointments and provide information about the vaccine distribution.
The latest COVID-19 relief package in Congress, supported by senators Warner and Kaine, included more than $19 billion for vaccines and therapeutics and an additional $8.75 billion to support vaccine distribution, particularly for states and localities, to slow the spread of the pandemic.
Last March, Kaine urged former President Donald Trump to consider any disaster declaration requests so states could use FEMA’s Public Assistance program to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Public Assistance is funded through the Disaster Relief Fund, to which Congress provided an additional $45 billion in the CARES Act.
In addition to the FEMA funding, Northern Virginia’s congressional representatives are pushing for a local mass vaccination site.
Today (Tuesday), Reps. Don Beyer, Gerald Connolly and Jennifer Wexton wrote to FEMA requesting that one of President Biden’s proposed 100 community mass vaccination sites be located in Northern Virginia, using Arlington County to make their case.