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A new report from the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership showed that the 22314 zip code — Old Town and Carlyle — received more funding in business grants than the rest of Alexandria combined.

A breakdown of grant dollars by zip code showed that Old Town and Carlyle businesses received $3.5 million in grant funding. The next closest was the 22304 zip code in the West End, totaling $1.1 million.

That funding would be centered in Old Town isn’t too surprising, considering that’s where roughly 50% of the city’s businesses are located. AEDP President and CEO Stephanie Landrum told ALXnow last year that’s also where around 60% of the grant applications come from, despite an effort by the organization specifically to reach out to non-Old Town businesses and encourage them to apply.

The rest of Alexandria, combined, received $2.4 million in grants.

In total, AEDP distributed $6.4 million in federal and local grant funding to 648 Alexandria businesses.

The grants were fairly evenly split between male and female-owned businesses — 46% and 44% respectively — with 9% not identifying their gender and 1% identifying as trans or non-binary.

Roughly 74% of the funding went to businesses with less than 25 employees, which were a focus of AEDP’s grand campaign.

The report also showed that 47% of businesses that received grants were white-owned, followed by 21% as Asian-owned businesses. Black-owned businesses in Alexandria comprised 11% of grant funding, and Hispanic or Latino-owned only 8%.

Overall, the report also took stock of the pandemic’s devastating impact on local businesses:

  • 81% of small businesses reporting very-to-extreme disruptions to business operations
  • 77% of small businesses reporting year-over-year revenue declines
  • 9.9% Alexandria unemployment rate in April 2020 (an increase of 7.9% from April 2019)
  • $30.2M projected loss of business and consumer-based tax revenue in the City

Photos via AEDP

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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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Alexandria is getting just over $2.6 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for upgrades to the city’s fire department.

Of the FEMA grants, one will provide $1.5 million over three years to add nine full-time firefighter/medics to the staff, allowing for the recommended four-person staffing on fire trucks and engines. Nine new fire cadets have already been hired, the city says.

Another $1.15 million will provide the Alexandria Fire Department with new exercise equipment, cancer and other health screenings, and additional annual physicals.

More from a city press release:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently awarded the City of Alexandria more than $2.6 million in funding over a three-year period to improve Fire Department staffing, health and safety. This funding ensures that each Alexandria fire truck and engine will now carry a four-person crew.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grant, which provides $1.5 million over three years, will allow the Fire Department to add nine additional full-time Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technicians. These additional roles will complete the goal of having four-person staffing on each fire truck and engine in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 1710 guidelines. Nine new cadets have recently been hired to fill these positions, and are expected to complete training and other requirements by mid-2020. Local funding to continue these positions after the term of the grant will be included in future budget proposals to City Council. This will increase the number of fire trucks and engines with four-person staffing on all three shifts from 9 to 12.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant of $1,154,261.81 will fund various improvements to the Fire Department’s Health, Safety & Risk Management Division, including exercise equipment; additional firefighter/medic cancer screenings; early detection testing for heart disease, stroke and diabetes; behavioral health resources; firefighter/medic fitness and health resources; and increased annual physicals.

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