Reston, VA

Though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an eviction moratorium on Sept. 4, the ability to keep up with rent payments has been one of the most urgent challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for Fairfax County residents, along with food insecurity.

As of Nov. 16, Fairfax County Coordinated Services Planning, which connects individuals to social services, has received 4,693 requests for rental assistance so far this year, according to Fairfax County Health and Human Services.

The county generally gets around 5,000 housing payment assistance requests every fiscal year.

“The pandemic has exacerbated the situation of our most vulnerable residents,” HHS public information officer Shweta Adyanthaya told Tysons Reporter in an email. “The system has seen a significant increase [of] over 3,000 new households, requesting all basic needs – housing, utility, food assistance – during the pandemic response.”

Adayanthaya says that, while requests have come in from all parts of the county, the areas with the highest levels of need now are the same areas that struggled most prior to COVID-19.

To help provide resources to tenants at risk of losing their homes, Fairfax County formed an eviction prevention task forcewith representatives from various county agencies, the county sheriff’s office, and the nonprofit law firm Legal Services of Northern Virginia.

The task force has also been charged with collecting and analyzing data on the eviction situation in Fairfax County, which will then be used to help direct resources and guide recommendations for future actions.

According to HHS, it is currently unknown how many Fairfax County residents have been evicted or become homeless since COVID-19 arrived in Virginia this past spring.

However, Adayanthaya says the county is “taking a proactive approach” to contact residents who get pulled into the legal system for evictions, and it has expanded outreach efforts to connect vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations with essential resources.

The county has also started outreach efforts to landlords that will expand in the new year.

“Communication is a key ingredient in communicating with tenants who are at risk of eviction as well as landlords,” Adayanthaya said. “We have been working hard to provide as much current information to prevent unwarranted eviction and to help educate the community.”

Currently set to expire on Dec. 31, the CDC’s temporary moratorium bars landlords from issuing evictions from residential properties for nonpayment of rent by individuals with incomes lower than $99,000 and married couples with joint incomes of less than $198,000.

Tenants in those categories will be covered by the moratorium if they are unable to pay rent due to income loss or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses and would become homeless if evicted. They must present a declaration to their landlord.

The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority has suspended evictions for rent nonpayment and associated charges or fees for residents of its properties. Late rent penalties also have been waived until further notice for renters at county-owned and managed properties.

Adayanthaya says the impact of eviction moratoriums on landlords, particularly small and family owners, has raised concerns in Fairfax County about the potential loss of affordable housing, but such measures are critical right now from a public health standpoint as well as a socioeconomic one.

“Eviction moratoria – like quarantine, isolation and social distancing – are effective public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Adayanthaya said. “Housing stability helps protect public health as homelessness increases the likelihood of individuals moving into congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, which puts individuals at higher risk for COVID-19.”

According to HHS, the Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness has secured 445 rooms at six hotels as of Nov. 12 to provide shelter for people experiencing homelessness and individuals who are unable to isolate or quarantine safely in their homes.

358 of those rooms are currently occupied by 462 guests for an 80% occupancy rate. 90% of the individuals residing in the hotels were referred by homeless services providers. Only two of the guests were not homeless upon admission.

“Since the hotels opened, 132 people who were experiencing homelessness at admission moved to permanent housing situations,” HHS says.

Additional housing assistance information and a guide to tenant-landlord rights can be found on the Fairfax County emergency information website.

Photo via Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness/Facebook

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Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, and the holiday means it’s time to take a look at which community sites will be open, and which will be closed. 

All Fairfax County government offices will be closed. Libraries and courts will be closed as well.

The Fairfax Connector will be operating on its Holiday Weekday Service, with several routes altered. 

Fairfax County Public Schools will hold an all-virtual, two hour early release day for all students. 

All parks will be closed with the exception of Frying Pam Park, which will be open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

RECenters will be open, offering free service to all veterans for the day. Due to COVID-19, reservations will be required. 

Reston Community Centers will be open and operating under normal hours. However, the Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services community centers will be closed. 

Photo by Aaron Burden/Unsplash

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Amid a year where national policing reforms were brought into the spotlight, Fairfax County is reviewing a suite of changes at a local level to improve police accountability.

At a Public Safety Committee Meeting, Chairman Rodney Lusk presented an overview of proposed changes in what was described as possible changes rather than new policies set into stone.

Near term considerations included improved data collection to improve accuracy, with ethnicity and a breakdown of arrest data included in documentation. Data would be released quarterly.

One of the other practices that’s come under fire nationally is the firing and immediate re-hiring of police officers across jurisdictions. One proposed change would crack down on that as part of a statewide push to make decertification easier.

“Consider and discuss implementation of state legislation related to the decertification of law enforcement officers who have been terminated or resigned for misconduct and the request and disclosure of information for prospective law-enforcement hires,” the input matrix said.

While many of the items items being considered focused on more transparency and restrictions on police, another item being considered was a review of how to boost morale in the police department, which Lusk said was at an all time low.

The committee also considered some mid-term options, like reviewing regulations around school resource officers and a review of Fairfax County Police Department use of force policies. with more data about the racial distribution of arrests, another mid-term goal was reviewing racial disparities in use of force and arrests.

“These are public suggestions… not approved by the board,” said Fairfax County Board chair Jeff McKay. “This is a parking lot of ideas that have come through your office and now must be adjudicated by this board based on data and conversations… Some of these will go off to other committees.”

Image via Fairfax County

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Reston’s North County Governmental Center is one of the most popular spots for early voting in Fairfax County.

While turnout through the county — and country — is high, the Reston location has seen one of the highest turnouts of the county’s 13 satellite voting locations.

Overall, voters are coming out in droves in the county. So far, 301,000 ballots have been cast in total — almost more than 2.5 times more than the total number of absentee votes cast in 2016, according to county officials.

More than 7,300 ballots have been cast at the North County Governmental Center followed by about 6,100 ballots at the Herndon Fortnightly Library and 1,400 at Great Falls Library, which is only open on Saturdays and opened for voting on Oct. 17.

County officials caution that wait times are still long.

“It takes 25 minutes or much longer depending on the place, day and time when voting,” said county spokesperson Brian Worthy.

The county has added two extra hours for early voting tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday. The change applies to 13 early voting sites, which typically open at 11 a.m. The hours at the Fairfax County Government Center remain unchanged.

Other than long waiting times, voting operations have been going relatively smoothly. The county swiftly moved to expand the number of satellite locations following arduous waiting times earlier this month.

While most voters have been masked, some residents have complained about party representatives failing to do so.

Worthy noted that while all individuals are encouraged to wear face coverings, the actions of party representatives cannot be controlled outside the 40-foot limit where campaigning is allowed.

The deadline for early voting this year is 5 p.m. on Oct. 31. Absentee ballots can be delivered by hand until 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 or by mail until noon on Nov. 6.

At this point, Worthy said it’s unclear how this year’s voting procedures will be adapted in future elections.

After the 2020 election is finished, the Fairfax County Office of Elections will look at any lessons learned–but it’s too early to look back in the past since the office is focused on Election Day which is now just [six] days away.”

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Extra Early Voting Hours Added — The county has added two extra hours on early voting tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday. All sites will now open at 11 a.m., except for the Fairfax County Government Center, where voting still begins at 8 a.m. [Fairfax County Government]

Local Officer Honored for Being ‘True American Hero’ — Weblos, Den 1, Pack 913 from St. Joe’s honored Officer Murn for being a “true American hero.” [Herndon Police Department]

Reston Collects 303 Pounds of Old Meds — The Reston District Station and Reston Hospital Center collected 303 pounds of old medicines during the 19th annual National Drug Take Back Day this past weekend. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Photo by Elizabeth Copson

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Fairfax County is putting together a survey to direct funding for the Consolidated Community Funding Pool — which goes to help local nonprofits and organizations. The County is looking for public input on where the biggest needs are.

The goal of the fund is supplement the county’s ability to fill human services needs.

“To determine how these funds should be allocated, Fairfax County, with significant community input, establishes categories that are reflective of the needs residents feel are most important in their communities,” the County said in a press release. “In preparation for the next funding cycle, the county seeking your insight on our current category areas”

The categories are:

  • Financial Stability
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Literacy/Educational Development/Attainment
  • Positive Behaviors and Healthy Relationships
  • Support/Community/Social Networks

A survey for prioritizing needs is available online, and responses are welcome until Friday, Oct. 30. All responses will be kept anonymous.

Staff photo by Ashley Hopko

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Columbus Day, also known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, is this upcoming Monday, which means several facilities will be closed to the public to observe the holiday. Here is a look at what is available and what is not. 

Fairfax County government offices will be closed, as well as in-person early voting at the Fairfax County Government Center. Local libraries will be closed. All Fairfax County parks will be closed, with the exception of Frying Pan Farm Park’s farm and indoor areas. Additionally, all RECenters will be open. 

The Fairfax Connector will be running on its holiday service. Several routes, which are listed on the county’s website, will not operate at all. Metro, however, will be operating on normal hours. 

The Reston Community Center in Hunters Woods will be open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. The RCC in Lake Anne will be closed for the day. The Herndon Community Center will also be closed. 

Photo by Aaron Burden/Unsplash

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Voters in Fairfax County will have more options to cast ballots beginning Oct. 14.

While long lines have plagued the Fairfax County Government Center since early voting began, 13 satellite voting locations will open on that day.

Additionally, a secure drop-off box will be available at the North County Government Center, which is located at 1801 Cameron Glen Drive, on. Oct. 14. Other drop-off boxes will be available at early voting sites during early voting hours only. 

The Virginia General Assembly allowed drop-off boxes in anticipation of increased demand for absentee voting in this election. Ballots can be returned at any election site from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In-person early absentee voting will run through Oct. 31.

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After hours of passionate public input at their meeting Tuesday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors passed a ban on carrying guns on county property.

The Board of Supervisors passed the ordinance 8-1, immediately taking effect and applying to County buildings, parks, recreation and community centers.

The state law that let Fairfax County ban guns on public property, is something that Jeff McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said the county has been asking for decades. Similar bans were implemented in Alexandria, Arlington, and Falls Church.

“There is also a lot of fear in this community about guns,” McKay said. “So while gun rights advocates are concerned for their own safety, you have to understand there [are] a ton of people in this county worried about guns — period.”

In April, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a new gun control law enabling local governments to ban guns on public property and spaces. The bill followed a charged legislative session in Richmond, where armed pro-gun protesters showed up to the state capital as the legislature was considering proposed gun control measures.

One of the drivers of the ban on guns on public property was a 2019 shooting in Virginia Beach, where a gunman killed 12 people at a municipal building.

Before the vote, many speakers at the public hearing testified about the fear they have about guns and how state and local officials need to enact strong gun control measures to prevent a similar mass shooting from happening in Fairfax County.

Martina Leinz, president of the Northern Virginia chapter of Brady United Against Gun Violence, urged the Board of Supervisors to pass the ordnance saying there is a history of armed protesters showing up at gun control events on public spaces in Fairfax County, which she said was a form of intimidation.

“These should all be safe spaces that allow for the free and open exchange of speech and ideas without threat or intimidation by those carrying firearms,” Leinz said.

Pat Herrity, the lone Republican on the Board of Supervisors and the lone vote against the ordinance, spoke for the many pro-gun residents who testified at Tuesday’s public hearing, saying that ordinance was about politics not about public safety.

“I don’t believe a ban on guns makes Fairfax County public places or our citizens any safer and for me, that’s the benchmark,” Herrity said.

The Board of Supervisors immediately voted on the ordinance after over five hours of public testimony on the bill, to Herrity’s dismay, who said the board should have waited to vote, so it could take the ordinance up in committee to review public comments before passing it.

Additionally, the ordinance will require county buildings to post signs at entrances alerting people of the ban on guns and ammunition in public spaces, something that some pro-gun advocates pointed out could be irrelevant to any potential criminal.

“Do we really think a mass shooter is going to turn around when they see a ‘no guns allowed’ sign,” Grant Kendall, who testified against the ordinance, said. “Will criminals, already committed to doing much worse be deterred? No, of course not and it’s ridiculous to think so.”

The ordinance has exemptions for those in the Reserve Officer Training Corps, those participating in collegiate sporting events, police officers or educational county programs. The ordinance will also exempt the Bull Run Shooting Center, a public gun range in Centreville.

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Early voting in Fairfax County is scheduled to begin on Friday, Sept. 18 at the Fairfax County Government Center Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Voting will also be available on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Sept. 19, and on Oct. 14 through Oct. 31. 

Any registered Fairfax County voter can vote early, according to a statement from the Fairfax County Government. 

Starting Oct. 14, 13 additional early voting locations will open up across the county. These locations include the Herndon Fortnightly Library and North County Governmental Center. Great Falls Library will open for early voting on Oct. 17 and is only open on Saturdays.

Early voting will end on Oct. 31 at 5 p.m., according to the statement. There will be social distancing and enhanced cleaning measures to protect voters and poll workers. 

Polls are now allowing multiple different forms of identification in place of a photo ID, including a copy of a voter’s current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or any other government document with the voter’s name and address. Expired Virginia drivers’ licenses are also allowed, according to the statement. 

If a voter requested a mail-in ballot but now wants to vote early, they can bring their uncast mail-in ballot to the polling location and surrender it in exchange for a new, in-person ballot. 

Those voters don’t want to mail in their cast ballot can return it at a drop-off box at any early voting site during open hours. Additionally, starting Sept. 21 the Fairfax County Government Center will have a 24-hour secure drop-off box at the government center.

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Friday Morning Notes

SAIC Raises COVID-19 Headwinds Estimate — “Science Applications International Corp. (NYSE: SAIC) executives think they know how much the coronavirus pandemic is going to cost them this fiscal year, and that number is $250 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Seeks Donations to Fight COVID-19 — “Fairfax County is still in need of cleaning supplies and child-sized face coverings — and we are also accepting fabric donations. Fabric (100% cotton) should be new and big enough to make a mask.” [Fairfax County Government]

Roundup of County Government Labor Day Schedule — County government offices will be closed this coming Monday in honor of Labor Day. Some facilities are open and schedules vary, especially as some offices offer reduced hours in response to the pandemic. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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A report by a subcommittee of the county’s Joint Environmental Task Force is calling on the county to achieve carbon-neutral status by 2050.

The draft report, which will be discussed at a task force meeting today, offers recommendations on goals for adoption by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Fairfax County School Board.

Members of the task force’s energy subcommittee met several times between September 2019 and August of this year to formulate the report.

In order to achieve carbon-neutral status, the report recommends reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and a net-zero energy commitment for all new county buildings and major renovation projects.

Here’s more from the report on the next steps:

1. Carbon emissions: Achieve 50% emissions reductions by 2030, as compared to the 2019 baseline.

2. Clean renewable energy: Produce 25% of the County energy use from in-County renewable energy generation by 2030, and 50% by 2040, using 2019 energy use as the baseline.

3. Building Energy Performance Standards for existing buildings: Decrease total energy usage from all County facilities by 25% by 2030 and 50% by 2040, as compared to the 2019 baseline.

4. Net Zero Energy Commitment: All new County buildings and major renovation projects beginning planning and design in 2021 and after must achieve ‘Net-Zero Energy’ (NZE) performance as defined below, unless County staff advises the Board prior to the 30% design phase why a project cannot meet the NZE standard.

The report urges the county to coordinate with other organization in order to inventory all potential solar sites, options for geothermal installations, and the launch of a communications campaign about energy and emissions.

The county is currently in the midst of developing its first Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan.

Photo via Unsplash

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Summer Entertainment Series Returns — “Beginning July 30, the Fairfax County Park Authority will livestream 25 free summer concert events featuring a mix of nationally known performers and singer-songwriters. These virtual events provide a new way to enjoy great performances from the safety of your home.” [Fairfax County Government]

Private Wagon Rides at Frying Pan Farm Park — The park is offering 30-minute  private tours Monday through Friday mornings throughout August. The cost is $40 per family and advance reservations are required. [Fairfax County Government]

Public Art Reston to Host Virtual Artist Talk — “Join Public Art Reston for a live virtual artist talk with DeWitt Godfrey. The artist’s latest work ‘Simon’ is scheduled to be installed at Valley & Park here in Reston in August. During the artist talk, Godfrey will be interviewed by Public Art Reston Board Director and local artist Marco Rando. They will discuss the new sculpture, the artist’s creative process, and inspiration.” [Viva Reston]

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Inspired by nearby jurisdictions’ efforts, Fairfax County officials want to expand its compost pilot to benefit residents.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck shared during the Environmental Committee meeting yesterday that the county staff is pushing for new ideas to reuse compost.

“Arlington, D.C., Montgomery — a lot of them are already doing this kind of thing,” Storck said. “This is a limited pilot.”

Arlington CountyD.C. and the City of Alexandria collect compost at farmers markets. Meanwhile, Montgomery County offers compost bins.

According to county documents, Storck would ask the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) to research and report back on options to bring the county’s internal compost pilot to the public.

Some preliminary ideas include placing “green” compost bins next to the purple bins for glass recycling, collecting compost at farmers markets and school sites and providing compost materials at the I-95 Landfill Complex & I-66 Transfer Station, according to a county document.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said that he wants the county to share more information about backyard composting.

“The ideal scenario would be that all of us in the county who have a backyard in which to compost would do that there rather than getting in their car and transporting it somewhere else,” Walkinshaw said, adding that people who live in apartments or don’t have backyards would benefit from the compost bins.

“I’d be concerned about having an unstaffed location for things that could collect that become then a dump site,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said.

Gross noted the glass recycling bins are regularly staffed: “So far with our purple cans, it’s been great.”

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said she supports the pilot idea and agrees with her fellow supervisors that the county should look into staffing and education around the pilot program.

Storck said he plans to bring forward a board matter next week with green initiatives that will include the compost bins.

Photo via Seth Cottle/Unsplash

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Dulles Toll Road Revenue is Down — “The Dulles Toll Road generated just under $8.45 million last month, roughly half of what it pulled in during June 2019, according to documents issued by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority ahead of its upcoming board meeting.” [Washington Business Journal]

Neighbor to Neighbor Program Serves 100th Resident “The Fairfax County Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) Shopping Program just served its 100th resident! Thanks to the overwhelming dedication and effort of the Fairfax County Emergency Services, Fire and Rescue volunteer personnel, the program proudly announces that it has reached this milestone.” [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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