The City of Alexandria is hosting a virtual meeting this weekend to gather public input on where federal funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) should go.

The meeting is scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday) from 10-11 a.m.

“The City of Alexandria is seeking community input as we prepare for the upcoming receipt of federal funding as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP),” the city said on its website. “This meeting will provide an opportunity for staff to answer questions and to hear from the community about proposed spending opportunities to help with COVID-19 recovery efforts.”

Alexandria is slated to receive $59.4 million from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, with the first installment this month and the next coming in May 2022.

According to the city manager’s office, the overall focus of the investments will be:

  • Continued financial relief to households, small businesses and nonprofits
  • Or financially assisting the city’s tourism, travel, and hospitality industries
  • To fund city services
  • investments in broadband, sewer and water infrastructure

Attendees can register online. The webinar ID is 971 7157 6389 and the passcode is 025975.

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Morning Notes

Elo’s Italian pop-up opens in Live Oak space — “The owners of Live Oak in Del Ray have opened a pop-up Italian restaurant in the Live Oak space in Del Ray. Chef Justus Frank is offering family Italian fare Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. Brunch is ‘coming soon’ according to the owners. The menu includes a variety of appetizers, flatbreads, paninis, seasonal pasta dishes, fish, chicken and more. A kid’s menu is available.” [Alexandria Living]

Police asking for help finding robbery suspects — “APD is following active leads and working with neighboring jurisdictions on the investigation into 2 armed robberies that occurred on May 5. One happened at 12:15pm on E. Oxford Ave. The second happened at 12:40pm in the 3900 blk of Courtland Cir… Witnesses and anyone with security video should contact Det. Stephen Riley at [email protected] or 703.746.6225. Even the smallest details can be significant.” [Twitter]

Chamber ALX releases City Council candidate survey results — “The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce recently asked all announced candidates to complete a survey of critical business issues facing our city. In order to ensure our members are informed prior to entering the voting booth, the Chamber is providing the candidate’s responses.” [Chamber ALX]

Alexandria resident Brian Hooks named to Time100 Next list — “Brian Hooks wants to change the country – but not by himself. An Alexandria resident, Hooks was named one of Time Magazine’s next 100 most influential people in the world in February for his work as the chief executive officer of nonprofit Stand Together.” [Alex Times]

City seeks input on American Rescue Plan Act funding — ” The City will host virtual meetings on Saturday, May 8 at 10 a.m. and Monday, May 10 at 7 p.m. to review the funding guidelines and discuss project proposals. The input will be used to inform a spending plan, and the deadline to provide feedback is Thursday, May 13.” [City of Alexandria]

Resurfacing work temporarily closes portion of Mount Vernon Trail — “In a step to prepare for an upcoming $6.5 million Mount Vernon Memorial Highway Trail Project on the south end of the Mount Vernon bike trail, a portion has been blocked off to bicyclists while crews resurface a portion of the trail between the Mount Vernon Plantation and Richmond Highway.” [Gazette]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy skies during the morning hours will give way to cloudy skies and rain in the afternoon. High 66F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch… Rain showers early with clearing later at night. Low 44F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 80%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Temporary COVID POD vaccinator assistant — “Are you a hardworking individual who is eager to join our efforts to augment and expedite vaccinations in the community? Does your passion drive you to commit to a cause that could have a positive impact on many? If this is you, we invite you to apply to one of our temporary City of Alexandria Vaccination site opportunities. One of which is the Vaccinator Assistant who assists the Vaccinator in efficiently dispensing COVID-19 vaccine according to existing protocols at PODs (Points of Distribution).” [Indeed]

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Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was in Alexandria Wednesday, and with Mayor Justin Wilson welcomed U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School.

Northam stopped by Pacers Running at 1301 King Street before the event with Cardona, where he met Wilson and spoke with employees about raising the minimum wage. Pacers has been paying its employees $15 an hour since last year.

“The $15 an hour is definitely better for morale,” Pacers manager Victoria Sanchez said. “We want to have our employees want to stay and to want to come to work every day and be able to afford, living in the area as well.”

Starting May 1, Virginia’s minimum wage will increase to $9.50 per hour, and then to $11 per hour starting Jan. 1, 2022, to $12 in 2023 and then $15 per hour in January 2026.

Northam then met with Cardona, Wilson, National Education Association of the United States President Becky Pringle and Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane at Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School.

Cardona was at the school as part of his “Help is Here” school reopening tour. Also in attendance were Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. and School Board Chair Meagan Alderton.

“It was an honor to welcome Secretary Cardona, the Governor, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the President of the NEA and more to Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School,” Wilson said. “Secretary Cardona pledged continuing support from the Administration as we continue efforts to return students to in-classroom instruction and provide supports for our kids during this time.”

As part of the tour, which launched in March, Cardona has visited schools around the country that have successfully reopened, as well as schools facing reopening challenges.

Images via Jason Taylor and ACPS/Twitter

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President Joe Biden visited the Neighborhood Health vaccine site at Virginia Theological Seminary today (Tuesday) just before he was scheduled to announce that states should open COVID-19 vaccination appointments to all adults by April 19.

“We passed 150 million (vaccine doses distributed) yesterday,” Biden said. “When you go home, get all your friends and tell them, ‘Get a shot when they can.’ We’re going to be able to do this, everyone’s going to be able to before the month is out.”

Neighborhood Health Executive Director Dr. Basim Khan toured Biden around the facility, and the president watched residents get inoculated.

“Mr President, the whole focus of our program is on equity,” Khan said. “We’re trying to increase equity by vaccinating our own patient population and primarily low-income, uninsured, under-insured, and a lot of people of color.”

Biden said that Neighborhood Health has done good work, and that within a month the U.S. will be in excess of 200 million vaccines distributed.

“We’re in a situation where, I believe, by the end of the summer we’ll have a significant portion of American public vaccinated,” he said. “Pretty soon when we have enough we can give it to the rest of the world… You can’t build a wall or fence high enough to keep out a virus.”

The president is scheduled to make the announcement at 3:45 p.m. at the White House.

In Alexandria, 41,200 first doses, or 31% of residents, have been partially given out. There have also been 25,878 full vaccinations, or about 19.4% of the city’s population. On Monday, the city moved into phase 1C, expanding  vaccine availability for a number of essential workers.

Virginia Theological Seminary was the first location in the city where a COVID-19 infection was detected — on March 11, 2020. The Alexandria City Public Schools system shut down two days later for the remainder of the school year, local businesses experienced dramatic closures and changes and lives were forever altered. To date, Alexandria has suffered 129 deaths and 11,100 cases, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Images via Youtube

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It was another busy week in Alexandria.

Our top story was on the dog found dead and wrapped in blankets at N. Armistead Street and Beauregard Street. The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria is offering a reward for information that can lead to the identification of the owner.

This week, the Del Ray Business Association announced that a mayoral debate between Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and former Mayor Allison Silberberg will be held on May 12, and a council debate will be held on May 17.

On the coronavirus front, City Council will soon consider a temporary waterfront memorial to honor COVID-19 victims. This week, the city also received a surge of vaccine doses.

We also continued our conversations with City Council candidates by profiling Councilman John Taylor Chapman, Councilwoman Amy Jackson and Kevin Harris.

Other important stories

Top stories

  1. Animal Welfare League of Alexandria seeks public help to identify dead dog
  2. Suspicious voting patterns seen in ALXnow poll on mayoral race
  3. COVID-19 update: Alexandria getting boost of vaccine doses this week
  4. Just In: Man arrested for allegedly grabbing women in Del Ray
  5. Teenagers arrested after 13-year-old girl jumped, gun pointed at her in West End
  6. Council approves roadway conversion at George Washington Masonic National Memorial
  7. Four arrested after juvenile robbed of shoes in West End
  8. JUST IN: Halal slaughterhouse to open in two weeks
  9. Poll: Which mayoral candidate has your vote?
  10. Neighborhood Health vaccinating thousands at sites in Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax County
  11. Flight attendant Annetta Catchings running for Alexandria mayor as a Republican

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria is slated to receive $59.4 million from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, and Alexandria will be reaching out to residents on how to spend it.

“On behalf of all Alexandrians, I want to share my heartfelt gratitude to Senator Warner, Senator Kaine and Representative Beyer for their assistance in achieving this legislation,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in a statement. “The assistance from the American Rescue Plan will help our residents and business community in many ways over the coming years and will certainly expedite our recovery after the devastating economic and personal impacts of the last year. We will continue to persevere together, and this aid will help to see us through to the other side of this global pandemic.”

The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership and Visit Alexandria are developing a plan on spending the money, which will come in two allotments this May and in May of 2022.

The City, which will get the money in May 2021 and May 2022, must be spent between March 3, 2021, and December 31, 2024.

“The City will proactively seek community feedback to develop a plan for decision-making about the use of the ARP funds,” city staff noted. “The process for developing the plan and timeline will be presented to City Council for consideration at the March 23 Legislative Meeting.”

Last year, the city received $27.5 million in federal funds that were allocated to the state government. This time, the federal funds will go directly allocation to localities.

The general plan from the city manager’s office is as follows:

  • Continued financial relief to households, small businesses and nonprofits
  • Or financially assisting the city’s tourism, travel, and hospitality industries
  • To fund city services
  • investments in broadband, sewer and water infrastructure
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Morning Notes

Beyer Enthusiastic After American Rescue Plan Passage — “THERE IT IS: the House just passed the American Rescue Plan, sending the bill to President Biden’s desk for signature! We did it!!!” [Twitter]

Metro Service Cuts Averted With Passage Of COVID Relief Bill — “While it will take more time to work out all the details, including Metro’s exact share of this funding, the $1.4 billion provided by the American Recovery Plan for our region’s transit agencies will allow us to avert the painful service reductions and layoffs that were on the table.” [Patch]

ACPS Transitions Special Education Middle-to-High Schoolers to In-Person Instruction — “Our hybrid schedule allows for students to return to the classroom two days a week.” [ACPS]

Del Ray Business Association Launches ‘Del Ray to Delray Beach’ Raffle — “One of the things we’re looking forward to most is traveling again.  This fun promotion is a way to say thank you to the community for their tremendous support of our small businesses, and to encourage customers to continue to shop local as we wrap up these tough winter months.” [Zebra]

Wooden Benches Replaced at City Marina — “The City Marina received a little facelift! All the old wooden benches have been replaced with new park standard benches. The new benches will improve visitor experience and aesthetics at the City Marina. We hope you get a chance to check them out!” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “A few passing clouds, otherwise generally sunny (during the day). High 76F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph… Partly cloudy skies in the evening, then becoming cloudy overnight. Low 57F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Experienced Sushi Chef — “Kaizen Tavern is expanding and we are looking for a Sushi Chef. We offer a great salary, benefits and the opportunity to grow a business together. The position is meant for a skilled, passionate sushi chef.” [Indeed]

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What a busy week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was on Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Old Town shop fibre space on March 3. It was Harris’ first official visit outside of the White House since she was inaugurated, and she spoke about the American Rescue Plan with shop owner Danielle Romanetti.

Alexandria City Public Schools reopened for hybrid instruction this week, the first time since all school facilities were shut down on March 13. The school system reportedly welcomed back 1,200 special needs students in kindergarten through fifth grade. ACPS will open on March 9 for special education students, and then fully reopen its doors to hybrid learning for students on March 16.

On the coronavirus front, the number  of deaths due to the virus has climbed to 123, and cases are at 10,404 since the first case was reported on March 11, 2020. Mayor Justin Wilson says the city is doing well keeping the numbers down, although with a vaccine waiting list exceeding 45,000 and 3,000 vaccine doses being given out weekly, distribution will continue to be slow.

More than 550 people responded to this week’s poll on the proposed new names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School. About 60% of respondents said they were happy with Alexandria High School, but not with Naomi Brooks Elementary School; 25% said they liked both names; 8% didn’t like either name; and 6% didn’t like the high school name and were happy with the elementary school name.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories:

Here are our most-read posts this week:

  1. Just In: Vice President Visits Old Town Shop Fibre Space
  2. Alexandria Wants Feedback on Building Spray Park in Del Ray
  3. El Chapo’s Wife to be Isolated in Alexandria Jail for One Month Per COVID-19 Distancing Rules
  4. Consultant Proposes Replacing Community Shelter with Mixed-Use Development
  5. Alexandria Advocacy Facebook Group Parodied in New Blog
  6. Superintendent Proposes New Names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary
  7. Patrick Moran, Son of Former Congressman Jim Moran, is Running for City Council
  8. ACPS Reopens its Doors and Evaluating Grading System for Traumatized Students
  9. Man Arrested for High-Speed Vehicle Race on I-495
  10. Meronne Teklu Enters City Council Race
  11. Neighborhood Spotlight: Old Town is the New Town

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via Peter Velz/Twitter 

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Updated at 2:30 p.m. — Vice President Kamala Harris managed to stitch a visit to Old Town knitting store fibre space (1319 Prince Street) into the day’s agenda.

It was the vice president’s first official visit to a small business since she took office in January. Harris spoke for more than a half hour with owner Danielle Romanetti and her staff about the impact of the pandemic and the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that’s working its way through the U.S. Senate.

“We have to understand… who are the folks who have been sacrificing on the front lines, and really are part of not only the economic engine, but to your point, the vitality of the community,” Harris said. “We have, for example, as part of the American Rescue Plan $15 billion that goes just into to small businesses. We have been paying a lot of attention to the fact that during COVID, two-and-a-half million women have left the workforce.”

Alexandria City Councilman John Taylor Chapman arranged the visit after being contacted last week by the vice president’s office.

“The vice president’s office was looking to chat with small, locally women- owned businesses and reached out to me and I connected them with fibre space,” Chapman told ALXnow. “It’s definitely an honor that she chose Alexandria for her first visit out of the White House. It was great to have her come across the river and spend time with us.”

Romanetti got a call from the White House on Friday, and opened her store after the visit at 2 p.m. She said that Harris likes to crochet, bought a hoodie for her daughter with the printed message “Come the apocalypse I will have clothing” on it, and talked about the relief that small businesses will experience in the event of the bill’s passage.

Communications officials on Harris’ staff said the vice president was discussing what women in the workforce are going through and how to get them the support needed.

“She’s actually really easy to talk to, and, and it was very comfortable,” Romanetti said. “Her daughter, Ella, is a knitwear designer who just was in Vogue. She just signed a contract with a with a designer to do a line of knitwear.”

Fibre space was one of several stores that took a severe hit last year from the pandemic. The store has been able to weather the last year with a PPP loan, a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan and two small federally funded business grants from the City.

“I am hopeful that this bill will pass, and that it’s going to put a lot of money into small businesses,” Romanetti said. “A lot of business owners are wondering if there is gonna be more loan money available. We also need vaccines, and we need schools to safely reopen because those are also huge issues for business owners. That’s also a huge part of the relief bill.”

Shop employee Maiya Davis talked with her about her pandemic experience. She’s worked there for two-and-a-half years, and was forced to completely shift her life last March.

“We basically had to learn new jobs overnight,” Davis said. “It was a job that just kept changing depending on which struggles we were facing that day. We had to deal with stressed out customers, we had to deal with running a web store all of a sudden, which is something we hadn’t done before. And then we also had to deal with the loss of our community space.”

Alexandria marketing strategist Maurisa Potts was also in attendance, and told Harris about the experiences that dozens of her small business clients have experienced.

“From where I sit in having to service these clients and getting their message out and communicating the hardships and the innovation that’s been happening during this time, a relief package like this will greatly help them,” Potts said.

Vernon Miles and James Cullum contributed to this article.

Photos via Peter Velz/Twitter and fibre space

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As Congress deliberates approval of a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, Alexandria is trying to figure out how it will spend its share.

Alexandria is anticipating $26 million to $34 million, depending on the final plan. The $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal includes $350 billion for local governments.

“Our pleas for Washington to come to the table with some significant local government expenses have apparently nearly been answered,” Mayor Justin Wilson said at City Council’s legislative meeting on Tuesday. “

Last year, the city received $27.5 million in federal funds that were allocated to the state government. This time, the federal funds would go directly allocation to localities, and would be available in May at the earliest.

City Manager Mark Jinks presented a preliminary proposal to Council on how the funds should be spent. It resembled the city’s 2020 Coordinated Community Recovery Plan, which focused on food insecurity, rental eviction prevention and small business grants. Jinks said that the city has been waiting for federal funding since last May, when the U.S. Senate sat on Heroes Act funding after it passed through the House of Representatives.

“We want to get your feedback, let you know where we are, and we’ll come back in probably the beginning of April when we know what the appropriations are,” Jinks said. “What we don’t know is how long do we have to spend the money. If we have three or four years to spend
it, then that’d be a different spending strategy, then if like the last bill said, you had to spend it in 12 months, which we did.”

Alexandria’s consumption tax receipts, including sales, restaurant and lodging revenue generated about $65 million per year, according to Visit Alexandria CEO Patricia Washington.

“This year we’re forecasting to be down $13 million before recovering halfway back up to $58 million in FY22,” Washington said.

Kate Garvey, the director of the city’s Department of Community and Human Services, wants to continue the supporting eviction protection efforts, as well as the city’s food assistance program with ALIVE!.

“It depends a lot on the amount of money that comes to us,” City Councilwoman Del Pepper said.

Wilson said that the city should use the funds to make structural investments for lasting changes.

“Instead of funding childcare, let’s get a childcare facility,” he said, and asked that city boards and commissions fill out a survey on how they think the funds should be spent. “Let’s build capacity that is our going to outlast just recovery of this year, and help us in the future.”

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