Alexandria, VA

While a moratorium on evictions is temporarily back in place, state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has proposed legislation that could give residents more of a chance to avoid them in the long term.

“This bill is a win-win and will stem the potential tide of evictions in Virginia,” Ebbin said on social media, “and has consensus support from tenants and landlords alike.”

The legislation requires landlords who own more than four rental dwelling units, or more than 10% interest in more than four dwellings, to serve written notice to tenants of the total rent due and offer a payment plan prior to terminating the rental agreement. Under the payment plan, tenants must pay the total amount in equal monthly installments within six months or the time remaining under the rental agreement.

The legislation was introduced last Monday, Aug. 17, and moved to committee discussion on Wednesday, Aug. 19.

If the tenant fails to pay any installment required by the payment plan within five days of the due date, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement.

Tenants who are participating in rent relief programs are explicitly protected under the ordinance. The change is not permanent, however, and is “not enforceable unless activated by executive order during a declared state of emergency.”

The legislation is the latest move in an ongoing back and forth over renters laid off amid record-high unemployment in Alexandria being required to continue making rent payments. Conflict between renters and landlords have led to protests and rental assistance offered by the City of Alexandria.

The bill was introduced by Ebbin and state Sen. John Bell, and is cosponsored by State Senators Barbara Favola, Jenn McClellan and Jennifer Boysko.

 

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Morning Notes

New Virginia Majority Wants to Suspend Evictions to April 2021 — “Do you live in SD-39 (parts of Alexandria, southern Fairfax County & northern Prince William County)? Your community needs YOU to urge Senator George Barker to support legislation to stop evictions in Virginia through April 30, 2021.” [Facebook]

Beyer Continues Daily Stream of Anti-Republican/Trump Social Messaging — “Still thinking about when Trump wanted to inject people with bleach.” [Twitter]

ACPS Looking for Volunteer Athletic Coaches — “T.C. Athletic Dept is working with coaches who would like to volunteer their time to start outside conditioning days for our athletes. We are polling parents of athletes to gather info so that it can be used to make our final decision.” [Twitter]

Alexandria Fire Department Hiring This Fall — “The next recruitment process for the Alexandria Fire Department is scheduled to begin this Fall!” [Twitter]

City Recognizes ‘Be Kind to Humankind Week’ — “Social support is exceptionally important for maintaining good physical and mental health.” [Facebook]

Flu Shots Available at Giant Food Stores — “Standard flu shots as well as high dose flu vaccines for customers over the age of 64 are available.” [Patch]

Today’s Weather — In the morning: “Sunny, along with a few afternoon clouds. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 94F. Winds W at 10 to 15 mph.” At night: “Partly to mostly cloudy. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 69F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Floral Manager — “Designs and fashions live, cut, dried, and artificial floral and foliage arrangements for events such as holidays, anniversaries, weddings, parties, and funerals. Responsible for processing/ packaging/ stocking/ maintaining floral products according to standards, cleaning work areas, providing customer service unloading stock, and reloading salvage.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

COVID-19 Cases up 21 to 3,186 in Alexandria — “The latest update from the City on COVID-19: Positive tests up 21 to 3,186 in the City 7-day Positivity Rate steady at 5.8% 0 new hospitalizations Still safer at home, wash hands, wear masks and support our essential workers.” [Twitter]

Ebbin Bill Would Require Landlords Offer Tenants Payment Plans — “Senator John Bell and my bill to require landlords to offer payment plans to tenants who miss a payment due to COVID-19 rather than evicting them reports unanimously from the General Laws committee. This bill is a win-win and will stem the potential tide of evictions in Virginia, and has consensus support from tenants and landlords alike.” [Facebook]

Irish Festival Goes Virtual — “The Alexandria Irish Festival, an annual tradition promoting Irish heritage, won’t happen in person this year due to the pandemic. Instead, the festivities will go virtual for the first time on Saturday, Aug. 29.” [Patch]

Pizza Restaurant Opens in Del Ray — “The site, 2419 Mt. Vernon Ave., has been home to several restaurants in recent years.” [Alex Times]

Today’s Weather — During the day, mostly cloudy skies; a stray shower or thunderstorm is possible; high near 85F; winds S at 5 to 10 mph. In the evening, isolated thunderstorms, then cloudy skies overnight. Low 71F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%. [Weather.com]

New Job: Reconstruction Estimator — “Review and evaluate cost estimates, communicates with team members regarding new and current projects. Prepare estimates and cost in detail for all products, ensure timely completion of estimates and rebuild jobs, establish and maintain working relation with homeowners and adjusters. Strong understanding of residential and commercial process.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria-based New Virginia Majority and Tenants & Workers United on Wednesday continued their push for increased funding for Virginia’s Rent and Mortgage Relief Program.

Thomas Assefa, the organizing director for New Virginia Majority, said that tens of thousands of Virginians will be evicted from their homes. New Virginia Majority is requesting that the Governor increase funding for the rent and mortgage relief plan to the tune of $1 billion. The organizations also say that the governor can use his authority to stop evictions.

“The $50 million in the Virginia Rent and Relief Mortgage Program is not enough,” Assefa said. “There are close to 3 million renters in Virginia… and hundreds of thousands of tenants who face evictions.”

Ana Martinez of South Fairfax has lived in the area for 20 years, and in April spent six days in the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19. Her husband got sick, too, and now that he has recovered he is unable to find work. Martinez is now three months behind on her rent and other bills, and said that when she was met with a wall of bureaucracy when she tried reaching out to Fairfax County Coordinated Services Planning regarding the funds.

“These are difficult times for us,” Martinez said.

Martinez isn’t alone: unemployment in Alexandria has remained high even after the state moved into the third phase of reopening.

Assefa said that such confusion regarding the program is being felt across Virginia.

Northam announced the $50 million program last month. Funds from the CARES Act are distributed to nonprofit organizations and then turned over to landlords to cover lost rent. However, Assefa said that the program needs improvements, like a 24-hour hotline with multilingual assistance, a faster turnaround for payments and the weekly release of data to show how much has been awarded and where.

According to the program website:

The Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP) is designed to support and ensure housing stability across the commonwealth during the coronavirus pandemic. Depending on availability of funds and household need, the RMRP may provide financial assistance for rent or mortgage payments for eligible households. This includes financial assistance for rent or mortgage payments past due beginning April 1, 2020 and onward. Financial assistance is a one-time payment with opportunity for renewal based on availability of funding and the household’s need for additional assistance and continued eligibility.

Additionally, as previously reported, earlier this month Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring stated that lower courts can grant continuances on evictions and that there are a number of state and federal protections in place so that people can stay in their home during the pandemic.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Sami Bourma doesn’t know what he’s going to do. At 2 p.m. today, the unemployed father of two children and resident at Southern Towers had an eviction hearing at the Alexandria Courthouse.

Two hours prior to that, Bourma and a number of his friends and neighbors stood outside the courthouse in Old Town and, for the second time this month, protested in asking Governor Ralph Northam to cancel evictions.

“I had three jobs before the pandemic, organizing for my local Union 23, as a cook and as an Uber driver,” Bourma told ALXnow. “How can I pay the rent if I don’t have an income? I don’t know what I’m going to do. That’s why I’m protesting today.”

Last week, the city also approved additional funds to help poor residents pay their rent while unemployment in the city remains high.

On Tuesday (July 14), Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring stated that lower courts can grant continuances on evictions, and that there are a number of state and federal protections in place so that people can stay in their home during the pandemic.

“The pandemic has taken a very real toll on Virginia’s economy and tens of thousands of Virginians, many of whom are hourly workers, have found themselves without a source of income during these difficult times,” Herring said. “We are still in the middle of a state of emergency and a public health crisis and it’s so important for Virginians to be able to stay in their homes to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe.”

Northam’s request to extend the moratorium to later this month was denied by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Jonathan Krall with Grassroots Alexandria was at the protest, and said that the continuances should be granted.

“You shouldn’t be putting people out on the street,” Krall said. “That doesn’t help the economy and doesn’t help the tenants or the landlords. People are starting to get evicted, and this is a major problem.”

Evelin Urrutia, the executive director of Tenants & Workers United, said that the Latino population in the city is hurting.

“We’ve been suffering with a housing problem, and the pandemic just made it worse and we are seeing it happen,” Urrutia said. “We have many families who are behind two or three months on the rent, and they won’t be able to catch up.”

For Bourma, the issue has become one of survival. After speaking with ALXnow, he walked back over to the two dozen protestors and took the megaphone to lead a chant.

“No money, no rent!” he shouted into the megaphone.

Staff photos by James Cullum

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Alexandria is providing the community with more funds to apply for emergency rent assistance.

On July 10, the city announced that it is prioritizing $450,000 from the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program for residents primarily living at or below 50% of the area median income up until July 20. After that time, households making 80% of AMI will be included.

“In addition, households with an unlawful detainer action dated before June 8 will be given top consideration,” notes a city release. “Tenants and homeowners are encouraged to know their rights and responsibilities and pay their rent and mortgages on time if they are able.”

According to the city, the new funds are “in addition to the $4 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds being distributed through the Emergency Rent Relief Assistance Program and $671,500 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds for tenants of affordable housing, both administered by the City’s Office of Housing.”

The governor’s moratorium on rent evictions expired last month, and there have been protests to cancel rents and extend the moratorium throughout the city since the pandemic hit Alexandria. There is another protest scheduled today (Wednesday) at noon at the Alexandria courthouse organized by residents of Southern Towers and the Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America.

The city has acknowledged that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color, which will be prioritized with the rent relief.

Residents should take a self-assessment survey to see if they qualify, and then call 703-746-5700 to apply.

Posted by Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America on Saturday, July 11, 2020

Staff photo by James Cullum

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The July 4 holiday weekend is here, and it’s hard to believe that 2020 is more than halfway over. Not only has the year flown by, but so has the last week.

Alexandria joined the rest of Virginia in entering into the third phase of its reopening, the oldest resident in the city turned 109, a police officer was charged with assault and battery for a January arrest

Here are some of the top stories in Alexandria this week:

  1. Margaret Chisley Celebrates 109 Years in Alexandria
  2. Alexandria Police Officer Charged With Assault and Battery for Unjustified Use of Force
  3. New State Laws Pushed by Alexandria Take Effect Tomorrow
  4. Old Dominion Boat Club’s Waterfront Revival Plans Resurface
  5. Alexandria Renters Ask Governor to Extend Moratorium on Evictions
  6. Businesses Face Tough Recovery as Alexandria Lags Behind Neighbors in Consumer Spending
  7. New Catholic University Location Coming to Carlyle
  8. Old Town Garden-Style Apartments to Be Replaced by Multifamily Apartment Complex
  9. City Recommends Riding E-Scooters for Errands and Social Distancing
  10. Reminder: Next Phase of Reopening Starts Tomorrow but Indoor Mask Requirement Still In Effect

Be safe this weekend, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Alexandria’s poorest neighborhoods have been hardest hit by COVID-19, and renters from Arlandria and the West End rallied in front of the city’s courthouse today (July 1) to ask Governor Ralph Northam to extend the moratorium on evictions, which expired on June 28.

Sami Bourma lives in the Southern Towers apartment complex in the West End, and has not paid rent since March. He has two children, his wife is four months pregnant, and he has been unable to work as an Uber driver. He’s also an organizer with UNITE HERE Local 23, which represents some residents in the buildings.

“There are hundreds of people who live at Southern Towers and a lot of them are like me,” Bourma told ALXnow. “I am getting $750 a month for unemployment. That pays for almost nothing and we need to survive.”

The areas of the city with the leading number of cases are the 22304 and 22305 ZIP codes, which include the West End and Arlandria, Potomac Yard and Potomac West neighborhoods, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Northam has requested that the moratorium be extended to July 20 — a move that Mayor Justin Wilson supports.

‪The extraordinary financial pressure facing residents of Alexandria who are experiencing unemployment or loss of income…

Posted by Justin Wilson on Friday, June 26, 2020

New Virginia Majority organizer Thomas Assefa said that his organization is also calling on Northam to approve $1 billion to fully fund an eviction protection program.

“Housing is a human right,” Assefa said. “We know that sheltering in place and staying in our home is one of the only ways we can combat this disease, and we are anticipating hundreds of thousands of tenants in the streets in the middle of a pandemic. There’s about 3 million renters in Virginia, and we anticipate 11% of that population could face massive evictions.That’s what’s at stake.”

Jonathan Krall, the co-founder of Grassroots Alexandria, said that it’s an issue of fairness and race.

“Racism results in economic inequality,” Krall said. “If you want to be anti-racist, then you need to cancel the rent.”

Frank Fannon, a former Republican city councilman, is a landlord and said that the governor should not extend the deadline and that there have been no waivers for commercial or residential property owners in their property tax bills, which the city mailed out last week.

“If you feel it is appropriate for tenants not to pay rent to your constituents, then be equitable and at least waive the late fees if property owners cannot pay their tax bill on time,” Fannon wrote to the City Council on July 1.

Wilson thanked Fannon for the email and responded that the property taxes are too important a revenue stream and that extending the deadline could endanger the city’s credit rating.

“It’s not something that we can play with unfortunately,” Wilson said. “That being said, our Finance folks are exercising maximum flexibility with tax payers right now. A taxpayer that contacts Finance will be extended payment terms, etc, upon request.”

Our community is the hardest hit by COVID-19 and the economic crisis, but Governor Northam doesn't seem to care about…

Posted by Tenants and Workers United – Inquilinos y Trabajadores Unidos on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Staff photos by James Cullum

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Morning Notes

Rally for Rent Relief Today at Courthouse — “Join us to demand that Governor Northam stop evictions and redirect $1 billion for rent relief. Wednesday, July 1 at 11 am outside the Alexandria Courthouse.” [Facebook]

Longtime Alexandria Firefighter Retires — “AFD would like to congratulate Captain Sam Parker on his retirement after over 33 years of dedicated service to the citizens of Alexandria. We wish him all the best as he begins his next chapter!” [Twitter]

Le Refuge Restaurant Reopening — “🍴🍷BONJOUR🍷🍴!!!! We are very excited to announce that we are reopening MONDAY JULY 6TH!!! Thank you so much for your patience and understanding,We cannot wait to see everyone!!!” [Facebook]

Pedego Electric Bikes Closed Next Week — “Pedego Alexandria will be closed from July 5th through July 12th for a much needed and highly anticipated family vacation! Feel free to call and leave a message or send us an email and we will get back to you when we can.” [Facebook]

Kidcreate Studio Crafts New Approach — “Kidcreate Studio hosted its grand opening March 14 — the day after Alexandria and Fairfax County closed schools to slow the spread of coronavirus.” [Alexandria Living]

New Job: Experienced Sushi Chef — “Kaizen Tavern is looking for a Sushi Chef to join the team. We offer a great salary, benefits and the opportunity to grow a business together. The position is meant for a skilled, passionate chef. Work with a dedicated team of culinary and hospitality professionals, who are committed to providing the absolute best experience for their guests.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Governor Announces Moratorium on Rent Evictions — “The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia has granted my request for a temporary moratorium on all eviction proceedings in the Commonwealth through June 28–this action will help keep thousands of Virginia families in their homes amid the ongoing public health crisis.” [Facebook]

Alexandria’s Noah Lyles Reaching National Stardom — “Lyles, who turned 22 last week, might be on the cusp of his own full bloom, from track and field’s next big thing to the face of the sport in America.” [Washington Post]

Frank Fannon Named Living Legend of Alexandria — “From his volunteer position at Agenda: Alexandria, long-time resident and chairman Frank Fannon stays on top of issues that matter to the residents of the city without directly taking sides.” [Zebra]

Office of Historic Alexandria Offering Survey Over Digital Program — “Please take a few minutes to fill out this survey about what you would like to see from OHA digitally in the coming months.” [Facebook]

Port City Brewing Co. Hosting BeerYoga — “BeerYoga classes return virtually with Melody Abella starting weekly this June! It’s a donation-based class and 100% of the money raised from the June classes will go to AGLA – Serving Northern Virginia LGBTQ and Allies in honor of PRIDE month.” [Facebook]

Video: Bishop Ireton High School Creating Diversity & Inclusion Council — “Good morning from the Bishop Ireton Head of School, Kathleen McNutt, on Monday, June 8, 2020 featuring a special message about racial justice and Bishop Ireton’s plans to create a Diversity & Inclusion Council.” [Facebook]

Alexandria Library to Offer Curbside Service — “Residents may be able to start picking up previous holds curbside starting, likely, on June 15.” [Alexandria Living]

Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hosting Weddings for $1,000 — ” Wedding must take place by December 31, 2020. Offer does not include taxes or service charge. Offers cannot be combined or transferred. Call your romance specialist and director of romance and catering Fatima Ayari at 703.845.7667 for details.” [Facebook]

New Job: Assistant General Manager at Old Navy — “You’re responsible for driving profitable sales growth through all aspects of the store including; customer and product operations, merchandising, and talent development. You are responsible for supporting the execution of the store strategy to achieve performance goals.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

City Leaders Participating in Town Hall to Discuss Race Relations — “Tuesday’s town hall (at 7 p.m.) will feature a range of speakers including Councilman John Chapman and School Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings Jr, Chief of Police Michael Brown and the City’s Race and Social Equity Officer, Jaqueline Tucker. There will also be opportunities for small group conversations and for participants to weigh in on the topics for future town halls.” [ALX Community]

Local Company Sees Strong Sales After May 1 ‘Shark Tank’ Appearance — “It really was a huge blessing because we just can’t be in stores right now, and we understand that, so we’re really grateful for the ‘Shark Tank’ episode to give us that push on e-commerce.” [Washington Business Journal]

Emergency Rent Assistance Applications Available Until Friday — “Funds in the amount of $600/month for up to three months will be provided directly to property owners on behalf of eligible tenants. Financial assistance will be provided regardless of citizenship status. Applications received through Friday, May 29 will be reviewed as part of the first application cycle, with priority given to applicants in the Tier 1 income range. Applications received after May 29 will be reviewed on a rolling basis contingent on funding availability.” [Facebook]

Councilman Chapman Decries Racist Emails from Public — “I wish someone would FOIA the city council for all of the racist emails and messages we get and post them publicly. Hell, if you don’t live in Alexandria, you should do that for your elected officials of color… cause we all have them.” [Facebook]

Alexandria to Distantly Honor of Class of 2020 Graduates — “On Saturday, June 13, 2020, residents of the most wonderful City of Alexandria will light up their homes in red, white and blue to support the graduating Class of 2020 from T.C. Williams High School. The George Washington Masonic Temple will be illuminated in red, white and blue on June 13 in recognition of our graduates. Let’s light up the whole city! Do your part, as best you can, to light up your home in red, white and blue to honor our graduates!” [Facebook]

AWLA Gives Away 5,000 Pounds of Pet Supplies — “The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria stepped up for pet parents in need, providing more than 5,000 lbs. of pet supplies to Alexandria residents in need since mid-March.” [Alexandria Living]

ACPS Provides Updates on Food Distribution — “ACPS has multiple distribution meal site locations throughout Alexandria for all ACPS students and children over the age of two.” [ACPS]

Parking Lots, Restrooms Reopening at Parks Along GW Parkway — “Parking lots and restrooms at parks along the George Washington Parkway in Virginia will reopen on Wednesday, June 3, after being closed to help slow the spread of coronavirus.” [WTOP]

City Advises Preparedness as Hurricane Season Begins — “June 1 marks the start of Hurricane season. Alexandria can be impacted by strong winds, heavy rain and flooding from tropical storms and hurricanes. Be Prepared: visit ready.gov/Hurricanes to learn how, sign up at alexandriava.gov/eNews for notifications and be #WeatherAware.” [Twitter]

Old Town Crier Prints June Issue on Wrong Paper — “Well….when it rains it pours! Just picked up the June issue at the printer and they printed the entire issue on the WRONG DAMN PAPER! No time to have it reprinted soooo….this issue is a throw back to the late 90’s!!” [Facebook]

New Job: Contact Tracer — “The Contact Tracer is an entry level public health professional responsible for identifying and contacting individuals who may have come in contact with persons recently diagnosed with an infectious disease associated with an outbreak or pandemic.” [Indeed]

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Maria Carmen lost her job in early March, and had to make some tough choices in order to survive with a two-year-old daughter and a one-bedroom apartment in Arlandria that costs $1,400 a month in rent. She’s been able to make ends meet and stay afloat during the hardest months of the pandemic by selling tamales, pupusas, empanadas and tacos.

At first, the 33-year-old Carmen sold the food along Mount Vernon Avenue. Now, customers line up outside her apartment complex every morning. She now makes about $300 worth of food every day and wants to open her own restaurant.

“Cooking food is my passion, and I love that people love my food,” Carmen told ALXnow. “It’s hard to make progress because, but I’m getting more organized. I’m working my way up.”

Carmen worked for a number of years as a cook at a nearby El Salvadoran grocery store until she was laid off. She said that her grandmother taught her how to cook in El Salvador, and that her restaurant would be named after her daughter, Cynthia.

One of her customers is Billy Lovo, who became her friend and helped her set up a GoFundMe page to start her own restaurant. The $10,000 goal is reasonable, said Logo, who is a server at a Mexican restaurant in D.C., said that Carmen’s food is good.

“I first met her on the street and she was selling taquitos,” Lovo said. “They were pretty good, and that’s when I saw her and her daughter, and I told myself, ‘Ok, you’ve got to take action.'”

Lovo added, “The way that she cooks the food is so good and people know about her all over the neighborhood.”

Staff photos by James Cullum

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