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April 14, 2020

Proposed Arlington County Covid Emergency Food and Rent Spending of $2.7 million should be raised to at least $22 million

Affordable Housing,hunger — @ 12:55 pm

The Arlington County manager on April 6 proposed that Arlington County spend $2.7 million for emergency food and rental and eviction assistance to residents affected by Covid virus.   The manager  proposed spending $7.5 million for small business, tourism, new services, and help for Arlington County employees.  Business thus gets three times the help that unemployed and desperate county residents get for shelter and food.

Even devoting the full $10 million to just emergency rental and food assistance with none for small business and tourism, will not meet the needs of the estimated 8,000 of Arlington residents who lost their jobs and incomes, and now cannot afford to pay rent and buy food.  Evictions and hunger should be the first priority for any county emergency Covid spending, and not business or tourism.

In March, the Arlington Greens had asked the county board to spend at least $10 million for emergency housing grants and grocery gift cards for residents, but that amount as the virus has continued and closed business continues, is inadequate.

Nearly 13-percent (16 million people) of the U.S. workforce are now unemployed, and filed for unemployment compensation, owing to Covid virus.  About 120,000 Arlington residents are employed in recent years, meaning that at the 13-percent rate 16,000 Arlington resident are furloughed or unemployed.  Assuming that half of these receive no pay, then about 8,000 Arlington residents have lost their income.

The County Board should be prepared to spend $22 million now for emergency food and rental assistance, and then expand this as the need continues.   The county manager has wisely called for the county to postpone most long term spending in fy 2021.   School and county infrastructure building can resume in fy 2022 or later.

Within the $43 million housing assistance budget spent last year in fy 2020 are $16 million to build new apartments (AHIF), and $2 million for housing and community development.   The county board should halt the building of any new housing or development, and transfer this $18 million to the housing grants program that now was funded for $9 million.  This additional $18 million could fund 3,600 households with a $5,000, one-time housing rental grant that would pay for roughly 3 months of back rent.  A $4,000 grant could help 4,500 households with  an $18 million fund.

With regard to food needs, a two-person household would likely need to spend at least $100 per week for food or $800 over 2 months.  To help 5,000 households, would cost $4 million for the 2 months.

In summary, the county board at a minimum should divert $18 million from its housing construction budget to emergency rental grants, and also provide $4 million in emergency grocery gift cards to the thousands of Arlington residents who find themselves facing eviction and hunger.

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