Newsletter

Alexandria got nearly $30 million in ARPA funding this year; here’s what the city’s been doing with it

(Updated 12/14) Remember the American Rescue Plan Act? Earlier this year, the city received $29.8 million in funding to allocate toward projects across the city.

Five months later, a new report to the City Council scheduled to be presented at a meeting tomorrow breaks down how that’s been going so far. Here is ALXnow’s simplified, condensed version:

Digital Accessibility

  • Digital Equity Plan (funding: $120,000): The city has been working on developing a digital equity plan that will identify infrastructure, device, and digital literacy barriers in Alexandria. This is part of an overarching goal spread out across a few ARPA projects to make internet access more equitable throughout the city. The report said by the end of January a community help desk should be in operation and a consultant should be under contract to start work on the plan.
  • Broadband Strategist and Policy Analyst (funding: $300,000): The city is looking to hire someone focused on community outreach for the new municipal fiber network program, as well as assisting in addressing equitable digital access. The city is currently finalizing the job announcement, with posting and recruitment by the end of January.
  • Alexandria Library Mobile Hotspot Lending Program (funding: $20,000): The libraries have been working with Verizon to deliver mobile hotspots to library cardholders as part of a plan to increase internet accessibility in Alexandria. The goal is to have all mobile hotspots in circulation to library cardholders by the end of January.

Housing and Food Security

  • Eviction protection program (funding: $200,000): The city is currently hiring a second housing justice attorney to support ongoing eviction prevention data analysis and planning efforts.
  • Rental resiliency (funding: $312,000): Bilingual staff were working this fall with tenants and landlords to help with access to emergency resources, with the end goal of maintaining long-term housing stability and security. Outreach and assistance is planned to continue through 2024.
  • Food security advancement (funding: $2.5 million): In an effort at addressing food insecurity exarcerbated by the pandemic, the city is putting together a plan to create food centers for those in need and continue food distribution. The report says the first food center location is identified and close to opening.
  • AHDC-Arlandria flex space (funding: $2 million): The Alexandria Housing Development Corporation is using ARPA funding to expand city services in Arlandria, creating a satellite flex space within an AHDC project that would house Housing/Landlord-Tenant, DCHS, and AHD offices. The plan is currently working through meetings to assess agency needs and space requirements.
  • Arlandria Chirilagua Housing Cooperative Improvement Initiative (funding: $50,000): The funding is scheduled to go to a loan/grant assistance program to help the Arlandria Chirilagua Housing Cooperative make capital improvements to buildings and improve living conditions for 286 very low-income households in Arlandria. The city is working through the red tape and finalizing a report outlining the priorities and budget of the program.
  • Bridge funding for food insecurity and basic needs (funding: $1.5 million): The city has been using ARPA funding to help with food insecurity and eviction prevention. Over 69,000 locals recieved meal equivalents through the funding this year and the funding went to help eviction preventino and support for 405 households and 1003 individuals. The city has been working with nonprofits like ALIVE!, Ethiopian Community Development Corporation and Tenants and Workers United.

Economic Recovery

  • Foundational support for Commercial Business Districts (funding: $560,000): After being struck down a few years back, the idea of a Business Improvement District snuck back into the ARPA plans with a program aimed at assisting in the immediate and long-term financial recovery for businesses. The program guidelines were being revised in the fall to provide multi-year funding.
  • North Old Town Community Development Authority (funding: $500,000): The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership is using this ARPA funding to start building a legal structure to take ownership for artistic facilities in North Old Town. A project manager is planned to be onboarded by the end of January with initial legal documents and contracts drawn up.
  • New business support programs (funding: $280,000): This project will support the creation of new businesses and jobs by offering counseling support, but it’s still under development with a project manager likely to be hired early next year.
  • Alexandria guaranteed basic income pilot (funding: $3 million): This program was in the headlines for providing a monthly $500 cash transfer on a pre-loaded debit card to around 150 families for 24 months. The pilot program has been going through analysis by researchers at Howard University. The program has also hit some snags in the research partner process. A formal rollout is expected by January 31, 2022 with the distribution of funds starting in February.
  • Expanding regional marketing (funding: $500,000): The Alexandria marketing is scheduled to boost regional visitation and small business recovery, with a particular focus on supporting “visitors and entrepreneurs of color.” The advertising videos and photography has been completed and is being developed.
  • Alexandria Community Access and Emergency Support Grant Program ($4 million): The single largest chunk of the ARPA funding is going to a grant program that provides support for non-profit partners, giving those non-profits grant funding to continue collaborative efforts in the city. The program is broken up into different portions that cover community access — helping connect local, state and federal services to those in need — and emergency support — which offers emergency financial resources to low-income residents who aren’t eligible for government-sponsored programs or fall outside the need of those programs. The grants have been awarded and services will begin being delivered by the end of next month.
  • Re-employment and upskilling project (funding: $1.1 million): The city has created employment and training specialist positions and recruited over the last month. The city is now working to engage community stakeholders for more support, referrals, and placement for those seeking jobs. The plan is to have the first group of Alexandria residents in the program vetted and enrolled by the end of January.

Racial Equity and Justice

  • Alexandria African American History tourism enhancements (funding: $295,000): Historic Alexandria is working on creating two new visitor tourism experiences focused on Black history along Duke Street and the city’s Civil Rights history. A research historian has been hired — pending approval from human resources — and work on the Duke Street corridor history project should be underway early next year.
  • Alexandria Community Remembrance Project (funding: $150,000): This project is a multi-year racial justice program. It is currently in the hiring phase, with a new education specialist being onboarded this month. By the end of January, the city is planning for more public programming, research, and coordination for 2022 remembrance events to be underway.

Stormwater

  • Stormwater repair and resiliency (funding: $3.9 million): The city is dedicating a significant chunk of ARPA funding to making improvements to the Hooff’s Run Culvert. This fall, upper and lower sections of Hooff’s Run were inspected and the city is awaiting pricing from a contractor for parts of the repair work.
  • Flash flooding spot improvements (funding: $1.9 million): ARPA funding will go to four spot improvements around the city to include detention, pipes, and other drainage improvements. In the fall, staff worked with a consultant to finalize a schedule for the Hume Avenue Bypass. Improvements are also planned for the Mount Vernon Cul-de-sac.

Miscellaneous 

  • Seasonal staffing and hours at museums (funding: $150,000): The city is planning to use ARPA funding to support two staff at Freedom House for two years, one weekend lab tech position at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, and additional staffing hours at museums. Staff for the Freedom House museum are expected to be hired by the end of January with the museum opening in April.
  • Arts relief and recovery grants (funding: $110,000): This project will fund grants for local artists. The program is scheduled to launch in early January.
  • Court mental health program (funding: $500,000): The city is stepping up some of its mental health and substance abuse services in the court system. This fall, the Court Service unit worked with a consultant to develop a social work and counseling internship program. Recruitment and selection of staffing is scheduled to be completed by the end of January.
  • LGBTQ & BIPOC Equirty Project (funding: $253,000): ARPA funding is going to working on providing more equitable services to more heavily hit communities. An LGBTQ Task Force met earlier this year and there have been a series of five training exercises with city staff about creating inclusive spaces for LGBTQ people. A workgroup is also meeting monthly to address issues of sexual assault and domestic violence.
  • Visit Alexandria website improvements (funding: $120,000) The Visit Alexandria website is getting a makeover this coming spring with the design phase of the project scheduled for completion next month.
  • Unified Early Childhood Workforce Stabilization Initiative (funding: $2.8 million): This initiative supports childcare providers and early childhood educators with the goal of caring for children while their parents return to the workplace. While the report says applications were scheduled to be launched in December, Robin Crawley, Chief of Early Childhood Services, said in an email that the applications have not launched.
  • COVID response (funding: $2 million): This general batch of funding covers ongoing protective equipment and other healthcare needs for various city departments. So far, a little over half of that funding has been spent.
  • Out of School Time Program (funding: $620,000): This program aims to benefit after-school and summer programs to assist with learning loss and acaademic and social supports. Over 400 children received support in the first “session” of the program, with the second currently underway and will run through mid-February.
  • Alexandria Library Outdoor Programs (funding: $24,000): The Alexandria Public Libraries hosted over 260 programs with over 3,100 attendees between Sept. 1 and Oct. 31 this year. The plan is to reach 275 by the end of January, with outdoor activities scaled down over winter, but picked back up again in March.
  • King Street closure (funding: $100,000): ARPA funding could help support new infrastructure and amenities to make the 100 block of King Street permanent. By the end of January, the goal is to have plans for barriers and sidewalk extensions developed and reviewed, with a schedule ready for when those can be installed.

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