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:
- Margaret Chisley Celebrates 109 Years in Alexandria
- Alexandria Police Officer Charged With Assault and Battery for Unjustified Use of Force
- New State Laws Pushed by Alexandria Take Effect Tomorrow
- Old Dominion Boat Club’s Waterfront Revival Plans Resurface
- Alexandria Renters Ask Governor to Extend Moratorium on Evictions
- Businesses Face Tough Recovery as Alexandria Lags Behind Neighbors in Consumer Spending
- New Catholic University Location Coming to Carlyle
- Old Town Garden-Style Apartments to Be Replaced by Multifamily Apartment Complex
- City Recommends Riding E-Scooters for Errands and Social Distancing
- 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
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…
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…
Staff photos by James Cullum
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]
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]
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]
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
Sheriff Makes Statement on Death of George Floyd — “This event is a tragic reminder that we, as a law enforcement officers, must do more to hold each other to the high standard of conduct that is expected and demanded by those we serve. We cannot stand by and remain silent when unacceptable conduct by our peers occurs, no matter how minor or major it is. We must be better for ourselves and our community as lives depend on it.” [City of Alexandria]
Beyer Says Trump Unfit for Office — “The President is inciting violence against the journalists who are showing everyone what is happening at significant personal risk, and against Americans broadly. Trump is unfit for office, and his divisive words make this situation more dangerous.” [Twitter]
ALIVE! Provides Food for 1,060 Families — “We sent 1060 families home with produce eggs and shelf stable groceries today because of your support!” [Facebook]
ACPS Hires Three Principals — “Today Alexandria City Public Schools announced the hiring of three new principals for the 2020-2021 school year. Dr. John McCain will be the new Head of School at Jefferson-Houston, Mr. Loren Brody will be the new principal at Charles Barrett, and Ms. Penny Hairston will be the new principal at Douglas MacArthur. Learn more about them by clicking the links in the comments below.” [Facebook]
DASH Distances from Wraps2Go After Owner Makes Racist Tweet — “We do not support any ideals that promote division, discrimination or racism. We can confirm that we have no ongoing projects with Wraps2Go and will not be doing business with them in the future.” [Facebook]
Fire Chief Congratulates New Firefighters — “Recruit School 50 officially completed their initial training and will begin reporting to their assigned stations tomorrow. Because their graduation ceremony has been postponed, Fire Chief Corey Smedley visited to take questions and give them words of encouragement.” [Facebook]
Tenants and Workers United Advises Arlandria Residents on Rent — “Today we were meeting carefully with more than 100 members of Presidential Greens and New Brookside to follow the next steps to get justice in their homes in their apartment complex in these times of crisis we are in.” [Facebook]
New Job: Part Time Concierge — ” The Concierge will be greeting potential residents, families, visitors, managing both external and internal calls, taking and communicating messages. The Concierge provides an overview of community information to those inquiries in support of the marketing and sales efforts.” [Indeed]
Alexandria Family Recovers From COVID-19 — “In early March, 18-year-old Ana Murphy came down with a sinus infection. But as her symptoms persisted, her parents, Gregg and Monica Murphy, both became ill. It was then that the family began to suspect that this was not a normal seasonal virus.” [Gazette]
Beyer Criticizes Maskless President Trump at Memorial Day Ceremony — “It’s true today and every day: the President should lead by example instead of ignoring health precautions designed to protect the public.” [Twitter]
Pork Barrel BBQ Drops Off 300 Meals at COVID-19 Testing Sites — “This afternoon we dropped off 300 meals at the Landmark & Cora Kelly COVID testing sites. One of our more memorable jobs that’s for sure. THANK YOU to all the emergency responders and volunteers administering tests today, we appreciate you!” [Facebook]
Inova COVID Hospital Fund Gets $100,000 Contribution — “Twig’s contribution to this fund helps Alexandria meet the escalating needs of COVID-19 patients by providing for additional staffing, personal protection equipment for our front line heroes, specialized equipment for the unique needs of COVID-19 patients, increased services for homebound families, and other resources to address the rapidly changing situation.” [Zebra]
Here’s How to Get Rental Assistance in Alexandria — “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]
Jason and Loren Yates Donate $12K in Face Masks to Local Groups — “The masks were sent to the volunteers in local service organizations including Senior Services of Alexandria delivering Meals on Wheels, ALIVE, Carpenter’s Shelter, Casa Chirilagua, and the Grace Episcopal Food Bank.” [Zebra]
New Job: Alexandria Health Department Communications Officer — “The Communications Officer reports directly to the Population Health Manager, is AHD’s principal communications subject matter expert, and provides oversight of AHD’s internal and external communications. They plan, design, implement, and evaluate AHD public relations, publications, and promotional health and service communications.” [Indeed]
(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) Alexandria is now accepting applications for $600 per month for three months of emergency rental assistance for residents affected by COVID-19 and who are living beneath the median household income.
The emergency funds have been made available via $13.9 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and will be provided to residents regardless of their citizenship status, according to the city. Additionally, the program flier has been translated into English, Spanish, Arabic, and Amharic.
Applications are being accepted through Alex311 through Friday, May 29. Residents can also call 703-746-4990 for a hard copy of the application. The first round of payments could be made immediately upon approval, according to the city’s housing director.
“Applications received after May 29 will be reviewed on a rolling basis contingent on funding availability,” notes a city release.
The funds will be available to households that do not exceed the following asset limits:
Household size Asset Limits 1-person household $2,205 2-person household $2,520 3-person household $2,835 4-person household $3,150 5-person household $3,403 6-person household $3,655
We are offering rental assistance to residents. See the qualifications here: https://www.alexandriava.gov/housing/info/default.aspx?id=115425
Staff photo by James Cullum
The City of Alexandria is working through a three-pronged approach to protect the city’s most vulnerable populations from the dire economic impact of COVID-19.
In a City Council meeting last night (Tuesday), the department heads who approached the city leadership at the April with an outline of their needs came back with plans on how to address housing challenges, food scarcity and keeping small businesses alive in the wake of the pandemic.
The plan is to use federal funding, estimated to total over $20 million, to address several COVID-19 related crises in the city. Federal regulations stipulate that these funds cannot be used to fill in other gaps in the city budget created by the pandemic. The initial trunch of money, City Manager Mark Jinks said, is only $13.9 million, but the city is expecting that to likely double over time.
Most of the discussion at the meeting centered on a new rental assistance program for low-income residents, which Housing Director Helen McIlvaine described as only slightly less challenging than a moonshot.
The program would provide $1,800 per household for up to three months, making up some but not all of the rent costs to low-income families. McIlvaine said those families would be identified by greatest need and least access to resources. The program, McIlvaine said, could be ready to go forward next week with the first round of applications ready to be rolled out immediately upon approval. Payments could start being made within two weeks.
The program would require informing both landlords and tenants of the rent payments to avoid fraud at either end.
Other stipulations, like the residents being required to be up-to-date on payments up to March. McIlvaine said the March rental period was identified as the start of when the pandemic began to impact jobs and businesses, so late rent payments after that period are ones most likely to have been caused by the pandemic.
McIlvaine said time is of the essence for the program, as there is growing anxiety about rent with residents passing the second month of bills due. Conflicts over rent have already led to a handful of protests in Alexandria.
“This is really exciting and I’m happy we’re able to do this,” said City Councilwoman Redella “Del” Pepper.
Kate Garvey, director of the Department of Community and Human Services, also briefly discussed the need for continuing programs like frozen food distribution and carts supplying food to concentrations of low-income families. Garvey also said her office has also been working to supply more household items and toiletries, which can be difficult to pay for and harder to find during the pandemic.
The other program that received major attention from the City Council at the meeting was a suite of plans by Stephanie Landrum, President and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, to reignite business in Alexandria once the pandemic is over.
“Think of this as a catapult,” Landrum said. “We’re trying to get businesses back to profitability.”
Landrum said the businesses in question employ people in the other programs supported by the city, so having those people back in jobs with a steady paycheck is something that could alleviate the strain on other support networks.
One of those proposals is a grant program, whose name is yet to be determined, that would help businesses that have had a negative revenue impact by at least 50% since the pandemic started. Landrum also said AEDP is looking for businesses that were sustainable and resilient before the pandemic so the program isn’t just paying off debt and closing out paychecks to employees, but funding businesses that can get back to thriving after the coronavirus pandemic.
Some on the City Council expressed concerns that the only businesses targeted by this sort of grant would be larger corporate entities, but Landrum said small mom and pop stores could also rank as sustainable and resilient.
“I do think this will leave out businesses,” said Councilman Mo Seifeldein, “and will leave out certain demographics, whether done purposely or inadvertently.”
Landrum said the aim of the parameters was to target businesses that are sustainable and will generate revenue, but that those restrictions could be adjusted as the program is finalized.
“We’re building the airplane while flying it,” Landrum said.
While the programs being reviewed by the City Council could have a positive impact on Alexandrians impacted by the pandemic, some said there were still areas being overlooked where there are still great needs.
“We have a lot of working families,” said Councilwoman Amy Jackson. “If we want businesses to reopen, we need to find a way to pay for child care.”
Mayor Justin Wilson said that though the solutions had their limits, it could go a long way towards making the case for more funding down the road.
“There is a skepticism that we can put this all to good use quickly,” Wilson said. “Even with the restrictions feds have put on us, I think we’ve identified, very quickly, some very good ways to spend this money and we’ll be able to make the case we’ve spent this well and we need a lot more.”
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
A pair of strikes filled the streets outside Southern Towers late last month and on May 1, but despite some extended support for renters out of the job due to COVID-19, those who helped stage the earlier protests said the fight to stop rent from being charged to those without a job will continue to go on.
“Bell Partners has extended its previously-announced measures to help residents financially impacted by COVID-19 into May,” a spokesman for Bell Partners, which operates Southern Towers, said. “The due date for May rent has been pushed back to May 20 and late fees have been waived.”
Organizers of the earlier protests said the second rally was larger than the first and carried over into a protest concerning another building with the same property owner.
“The last action that residents took was on Friday, May 1,” said Sarah Jacobson, lead organizer with UNITE HERE Local 23, a regional union that represents some residents in the building. “[It was] a car rally that included probably twice as many residents as at their first car rally held on April 20. That action also involved tenants at another building, Dominion in Alexandria, that is also operated by Bell Partners and owned by Snell Properties (the same owner and operator structure as at Southern Towers).”
Jacobson recognized that Bell Partners has extended the late fees each month, but said deferred payment is still expected over a six-month period. The Alexandria City Council warned in an earlier meeting that many residents that are currently out of jobs could face difficulties over the next months finding new jobs as the economy slowly reopens. These residents would be saddled with not only paying ongoing rent but paying rent for months when they were unable to work.
“A recent Vox news article estimated that 70% of jobless Americans did not receive unemployment benefits in March,” Jacobson said. “I estimate that this number is both higher among Southern Towers residents and also remains true in April, as so many workers are gig workers for whom the [Virginia Employment Commission] has not begun to approve benefits. This makes the prospect of paying 25% of rent in April, and then 25% (for May rent) + 15% (for April rent) in May under Bell’s proposal completely untenable for families without any income at all since the second week of March.”
The City Council approved some rent assistance for those living in committed affordable units, which does little to help most residents at Southern Towers, but the city is also looking at implementing a larger program to help low-income residents with rent city-wide.
Jacobson said Southern Towers residents are continuing to organize for rent relief and are currently reaching out to residents of other Bell Properties to build a larger coalition.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
Hundreds of Alexandria residents took to the streets of Arlandria early on Friday evening to protest against paying rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lisa Hernandez lost her job two months ago, and can’t pay her $1,000 monthly rent for a small apartment that she lives in with her husband and young son.
“I have no savings,” Hernandez told ALXnow. “I don’t know what we are going to do. We can’t pay the rent. I have been trying to get food from everywhere, because we can’t afford to eat right now.”
Alexandria City Councilman John Taylor Chapman drove in a caravan of honking cars with his wife and infant son. The signs on his car read, “Cancel Rent!”
“I think we need rent cancellation in Virginia,” Chapman said. “I think there’s an opportunity for the federal and state governments to come together to give relief for folks and who will or have lost their jobs during the pandemic, and we need to lobby to get federal resources to landowners.”
Anna Diaz and her two roommates wore face masks as they drove in the caravan. Diaz lost her job as an administrative assistant in D.C. last month, and said that things are getting desperate for many in the Latino community.
“A lot of these folks work two or three jobs, and they still struggle,” Diaz said. “That’s why we’re here today, really, demanding for landlords to not profit off of people during this pandemic.”
We want to thank everyone who joined our car caravan , we had more than 100 cars in Arlandria-Chirilagua and many more…
As previously reported, the City Council voted to direct $671,570 in federal funding to provide rent assistance for low-income families in Alexandria. Council also passed a measure asking state and federal officials for a rent and mortgage freeze. The federal funds are available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and includes $1.1 million in block grants and $585,127 in Home Investment Partnership Program funds. The city is also continuing to work on a rental assistance program.
City funding can currently provide $500 in monthly financial assistance per home, and the funding is expected to help about 450 households. The city’s Office of Community Services also offers up to $6,000 per year to help low-income seniors pay their rent and utilities.
ALIVE! also helps low-income residents with help paying rent and utilities.