Two Fairfax County organizations have been awarded grants from a national nonprofit aimed at increasing access for food service programs for children and their families.
The Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center and Cornerstones in Reston both received grants from No Kid Hungry, a campaign from the national nonprofit Save Our Strength, whose mission is to end hunger and poverty.
No Kid Hungry announced on July 26 that it has distributed $1.16 million in grants to more than 30 Virginia school districts and organizations to combat food insecurity and provide more access to food to children and families.
The Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center received $25,000, and Cornerstones was granted $30,000.
“We are thrilled to get the grant and happy to help families in ways we couldn’t otherwise,” Renee Boyle, development director at the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, said.
Located at 7230 Idylwood Road, the children’s center provides early childhood education, along with an after-school child care program specifically for students at nearby Lemon Road Elementary School in Falls Church.
Boyle says the center will share money from the grant with the Seven Corners Children’s Center, a preschool in Falls Church.
$15,000 will go towards providing low-income families at both centers with grocery cards that can be used at their discretion. That way, children and their families, including parents and older siblings, can have easier access to food even outside of the schools’ walls, Boyle says.
“Oftentimes, it can be difficult getting to school to get food, or [the kids] don’t attend pre-school,” she said. “This allows [families] to purchase fruits, veggies, and meats of their choice and reflects their ethnic preferences.”
The other $10,000 will go towards contracting Good Food Company out of Arlington to provide high-quality lunches at the center. They provide meals full of fresh vegetables, proteins, and wholesome dishes, Boyle says.
“The menu varies everyday and they’re higher quality meals than county public schools,” she said.
Cornerstones — a nonprofit that provides assistance with food, shelter, child care, and other basic needs — is using its grant to rent an outdoor storage unit to expand its pantry program, pay off-site storage facility costs, and purchase a new cargo van to deliver fresh food to households in need, CEO Kerrie Wilson says.
Food insecurity remains a huge challenge in the D.C. region. About 1% of residents in several pockets of Reston, Vienna, Tysons, and Herndon were food-insecure in 2020, according to Capital Area Food Bank research.
One in eight children under 18 in Virginia live in a household where they may not be getting enough to eat, according to No Kid Hungry.
“If it weren’t for the free meals being offered by schools and community organizations, that number would be much higher,” No Kid Hungry Virginia Associate Director Sarah Steely said.
Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center Executive Director Lucy Pelletier says existing food access challenges have been exacerbated by the pandemic due in large part to employment uncertainty.
“We are seeing that our families are in widely varied states of employment recovery,” Pelletier said in a statement. “Our parents who are restaurant servers are exhausted from all their overtime hours because restaurants can’t hire enough employees. Parents in other direct service jobs such as house cleaning are either working less than pre-pandemic levels due to clients’ fears of covid, or they are traveling further to fill their schedule with families willing to accept cleaners into their homes.”
Rising food prices also means that paychecks are not going as far as they used too, she added.
Food insecurity also disportionately impacts communities of color and immigrants. Cornerstones says about 70% of the people it serves are people of color and 40% are children, half of whom identify as a member of a minority or immigrant community.
The nonprofit surveyed some of the residents it works with and found that food stability remains a huge, immediate concern.
“Food stability is a continued top priority and source of stress for themselves and their families,” Wilson said. “The concerns about access to healthy and adequate food and nutrition was significantly higher in respondents who identified as people of color and immigrants.”
Community organizations like the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center and Cornerstones are critical to ensuring children have enough healthy food to eat, because they can provide access outside of schools, especially during summer and winter breaks.
“These meal programs work together with nutrition programs like Pandemic EBT and SNAP to ensure kids have enough to eat,” Steely said by email. “We know that summer can be the hungriest time of the year for children and families across the Commonwealth and beyond.”
Photo via Melissa Belanger/Unsplash
Storm Brings Power Outages, Hail to Fairfax County — Thunderstorms swept through Fairfax County last night (Wednesday), resulting in reports of damaging winds and even hail “that toppled trees and wires.” As of midnight, Dominion Energy’s outage map showed thousands of people in the county without power, particularly around McLean. [Capital Weather Gang]
Farmer’s Market Nonprofit Awarded State Grant — FRESHFARM will get a $50,000 grant from the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund to establish new fresh food mobile markets in food-insecure areas of Northern Virginia. The nonprofit operates several farmer’s markets in Fairfax County, including the ones at the Mosaic District and The Boro. [Patch]
More Traffic Control Sought for Great Falls Park — “Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) officials are seeking to have the federal government provide $100,000 in permanent, annual funding for U.S. Park Police to control traffic at Old Dominion Drive and Georgetown Pike outside the park’s entrance when park usage is especially heavy…Traffic congestion outside the park routinely occurs on weekends, holidays and fee-free days from March through early November, GFCA leaders said.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Madison HS Student Brings Books and Bikes to Tanzania — James Madison High School rising junior Sophia Brown organized a bicycle drive at the Vienna school in May and collected dozens of donated books to bring to Tanzania for a Girl Scout project. Sophia traveled to the East African country this summer with support from the nonprofit Wheels to Africa, which she has worked with since she was in second grade. [FCPS]
Fairfax County will use an estimated $10 million in COVID-19 relief money for another major grant program aimed at helping community partners keep their doors open.
The Board of Supervisors approved the Active and Thriving Community Grants Program at its meeting yesterday (Tuesday), where grants will range from $2,000 to $18,000 depending on the size of the business or nonprofit.
While businesses have pushed to reopen, many continue to struggle, and COVID-19 concerns persist. The grants target child care providers, community-based safety net providers, youth recreational or educational programs, youth athletic groups, and pools.
“As someone who visits a child care center everyday, they’re still operating under COVID restrictions that other businesses aren’t,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said during the board meeting. “So, they’re still dealing with that in terms of capacity and PPE [personal protective equipment] and masking.”
County staff reported that many community-based organizations “continue to struggle economically” due to COVID-19 and most have had to cancel or significantly alter major fundraising events.
“For many, giving levels have not returned to prior levels,” county staff wrote in the meeting agenda. “For many donors, giving patterns have changed. Even where giving has increased, it has not made up for lost revenue or increased expenses.”
Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services Deputy Director Sarah Allen told the board that the application period for the new grant program will launch by the end of August.
To be eligible, recipients will be required to show that they had a 15% decline in gross revenue in 2020 compared to 2019 or a 15% increase in expenditures directly tied to costs due to the pandemic.
The new grants are projected to allocate:
- $4.3 million for child care providers
- $1.9 million for community-based safety net providers
- $1.8 million for youth recreational or educational programs
- $1.5 million for youth athletic organizations
- $500,000 for pools
“A lot of these organizations survived through the pandemic because the…volunteer board members or the parents or community members involved dipped into their own pockets to keep things going so they didn’t have to go out of business,” Walkinshaw said.
The money comes as the county is finalizing awards for its PIVOT program, which will provide over $24.4 million in grants from the American Rescue Plan Act to businesses in the retail, food, and lodging sectors and other organizations financially affected by the pandemic.
When the county created the PIVOT program on June 8, staff were also looking for ways to provide additional assistance. A county survey of child care programs conducted in March found that over half of respondents did not know how long they would be able to stay open without financial support.
“The potential closure of child care programs could come at a time when more parents are returning to work, impacting working parents and their children, employers, and the child care workforce and their families,” the staff report said.
In awarding the grants, the county expects to use a priority measure related to vulnerable populations to pick recipients in the child care and pool categories. The remaining awards would be determined by a lottery system.
It wasn’t immediately clear how exactly the priority measure would work, but the county said staff will look at the social and economic conditions that made populations more vulnerable to COVID-19 as well as recent economic, health, and other data relevant to the pandemic’s impact.
Similar to the PIVOT grants, the county will use a third-party vendor — the Latino Economic Development Corp. — for the online grant administration portal and awards. Advertising and outreach in multiple languages will begin before the August launch.
“This grant program will prioritize disproportionately impacted populations and communities wherever possible,” county staff said.
Photo via Fairfax County/Facebook
Fairfax County could send over $24.4 million in federal money to small businesses recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic through its PIVOT grant program.
The money, which doesn’t have to be repaid, is intended to help economic recovery efforts. After an application period ran from June 23 to July 9, county officials gave updates on the program to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors during an economic initiatives committee meeting this morning (Tuesday), stressing the timing and scope of the support.
“Our retail services and amusements businesses really did need this funding,” said Theresa Benincasa, economic mobility manager with the county’s Department of Economic Initiatives. “They stepped up and requested it in large numbers.”
Nearly 1,600 applicants for Fairfax County’s small business PIVOT grant program are eligible to get the money based on an initial eligibility check, while 921 applicants are ineligible, county staff reported.
During the meeting, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay asked if the county had flexibility on an eligibility requirement that a business have a commercial storefront. He said two businesses approached him about the issue, one of which was a catering business tied to a closed office building.
Benincasa said officials could work with him on that issue.
Most of the applicants that were ineligible didn’t meet the threshold for economic injury. Over 300 didn’t have a commercial storefront, and nearly 200 secured a Small Business Administration Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant, which provided $283,000 on average, according to the county.
Recipients had to have at least a 15% loss in annual revenue. Eligible applicants averaged a 46% reduction in revenue and 25% reduction in employees, according to county data.
Benincasa noted that applications are still moving through a three-step process to obtain the money. The first step involved using a web portal to determine initial eligibility, and the remaining steps could last from August to November.
The grants are being funded with $25 million that the county received from the American Rescue Plan Act. If demand surpassed that threshold, the county had prepared to prioritize funding to hotels and then create a lottery system for other applicants, but because it didn’t, that randomization element will be scrapped, the county said Tuesday.
The breakdown of awards is projected to be the following:
- $14.1 million to 1,178 applicants with an average of four employees in the areas of retail, services, and amusements
- $5.4 million to 309 applicants with an average of eight employees in the food service sector
- Nearly $4.5 million to 61 applicants with an average of 25 employees in the lodging sector
- $415,000 to 49 applicants with an average of four employees in the areas of arts organizations, museums, and historical sites.
The awards range from $1,500 to $18,000 per business, which all had to have 500 employees or fewer.
Hotels could receive $400 per room if they had 10 rooms or more. In January, the American Hotel and Lodging Association released a report on the “sharp and sustained” drop in travel due to COVID-19 in 2020 and projected that the travel industry won’t fully recover until 2024.
Benincasa said that most of the hotels in the county are getting PIVOT money, but that didn’t include all of them, possibly because of the 500-employee cap.
“The need is immediate,” said Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who chairs the economic initiatives committee, noting the county’s work isn’t finished in helping small businesses.
Photo via Machvee/Flickr
The Fairfax County School Board approved a framework yesterday (Thursday) to seek federal COVID-19 money, with the stipulation that it gets increased oversight and input on how the money will be spent.
The roughly $189 million plan would start with the upcoming school year and extend to June 2024. It is intended to help Fairfax County Public Schools respond to issues stemming from the pandemic.
“While we did have a public hearing about where people would like us to target our monies, we have not had the opportunity to get the greater details from the superintendent and his team,” Braddock District Representative Megan McLaughlin said.
The school board thanked district administrators for developing the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) framework after learning about the incoming funds in May, but several board officials questioned whether the proposal was sufficiently detailed and provided enough accountability.
“The ESSER funds are unlike other funding by the federal government in that it has a requirement to have extensive community input and outreach,” Mount Vernon District Representative Karen Corbett-Sanders said.
The ESSER III money will support school operations, cover increased workloads for Individualized Education Program (IEP) staff, aid academic interventions, address students’ social and emotional needs, help with translation services for students, and more.
The largest costs, as identified by district staff so far, would involve:
- $54.9 million for academic intervention
- $46.2 million for special education teacher contracts
- $23.3 million for social and emotional learning needs
- Nearly $20.2 million for summer 2022 learning
- Nearly $14 million for afterschool programming and transportation
According to an FCPS presentation about the program, the ESSER money should address the impacts of the pandemic especially for students who have been disproportionately affected, and at least 20% must be used to address learning loss, among other rules.
The money will come through the Virginia Department of Education from the American Rescue Plan Act that was passed by Congress and signed into law in March.
Corbett-Sanders said FCPS faces an Aug. 1 deadline for submitting a general framework to the state before giving a more specific plan for how it will spend the funds by Sept. 1.
“Rather than just greenlighting, ‘They’re giving us $188.6 million, we’re going to put it in a line item list,’ we felt that it was important to have a little bit more comprehensive planning around the ESSER funds grant,” Corbett-Sanders said.
With the board’s initial approval, Superintendent Scott Brabrand will present an official ESSER III plan prior to the board’s Aug. 26 business meeting. He will present more detailed information, including targeted goals, operational timelines, and accountability metrics in a September work session.
The board’s motion also stipulated that state-filed amendments to the plan that reach $100,000 or more must be authorized by the board.
(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) Two technology companies in Tysons have each received $100,000 grants as part of a new state initiative intended to support projects that turn research into commercial products or services.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced yesterday (Monday) that Virginia will award $3.4 million in grants to 34 small, technology-focused businesses for the inaugural round of the Commonwealth Commercialization Fund (CCF), which launched in 2020 to help advance promising technology through the development process.
The Tysons-based recipients are the cybersecurity company Onclave Networks Inc. and Jeeva Informatics Solutions Inc., which is developing a cloud platform to help medical researchers recruit and work with patients for clinical trials.
“Facilitating research breakthroughs and getting new technologies out of the lab and into the hands of consumers is key to driving economic growth and creating jobs in the Commonwealth,” Northam said in the news release. “I am confident this first round of CCF awards will produce far-reaching benefits and congratulate these innovators and entrepreneurs on their success in developing transformative solutions to improve lives and address some of the most pressing challenges we face.”
The CCF consolidated Virginia’s existing Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund and Virginia Research Investment Fund. Each of the Fiscal Year 2021 recipients received $100,000 and will provide matching funds.
According to the news release from the governor’s office, the fund focuses on technology “with a high potential for economic development and job creation” and that “position the Commonwealth as a national leader in science- and technology-based research, development, and commercialization.”
Onclave received a grant for its Zero Trust network, which aims to allow for remote communications and operations of “smart” infrastructure, such as telemedicine services or autonomous transportation, while providing protection from security threats.
The company previously received funding from the 2020 Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund and was selected to participate in the Smart City Works accelerator program as a winner of Fairfax County’s first Smart City Challenge in March.
Onclave is also working with the Center for Innovative Technology to deploy its technology at the Virginia Smart Community Testbed in Stafford County.
“We have repeatedly seen how important it is to secure not just our devices and networks, but the data as well,” CIT Chief Technology Officer David Ihrie said in a statement. “As the Internet of Things continues to rapidly expand, cybersecurity solutions like Onclave’s Zero Trust platform are essential foundational elements of our new digital infrastructure.”
“The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority applauds the granting of the inaugural round of the Commonwealth Commercialization Fund awards, including to the 6 Fairfax County-area-based companies,” Fairfax County Economic Development President and CEO Victor Hoskins said by email. “The CCF awards will provide funding support to spur research commercialization, with the intent of technological development leading to economic growth in Virginia.”
Photo via Alesia Kazantceva/Unsplash
PIVOT Grant Application Deadline Today — This is the last day for hotels, restaurants, and other local businesses affected by the pandemic to apply for COVID-19 relief funding from Fairfax County’s PIVOT grant program. The application portal will close at 11:59 p.m. [Fairfax County Government]
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McLean Nonprofit to Raffle Off Nats Memorabilia — “The McLean area branch of the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) used-book sale, its annual charitable fund-raiser, has been postponed again due to lingering effects of COVID-19. Instead, the group will hold a substitute fund-raiser featuring [Washington Nationals pitcher Max] Scherzer memorabilia, along with a request for contributions to support education and local scholarships for women.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Help Clean Up Nottoway Park This Weekend — “Join us at Nottoway Park on Saturday, July 10th, to celebrate Latinx Conservation Month, and help manage invasive plants, visit some sheep, and learn how to care for plants. Nottoway Park is located at 9537 Courthouse Road in Vienna, VA.” [Palchik Post]
Hospitality workers looking to return to their jobs and hotels trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic are seeing signs of progress in an industry wrecked by shutdown orders and travel disruptions.
Fairfax County’s new PIVOT grant program is prioritizing grant money for hotels, while also assisting other hard-hit businesses with $25 million in federal COVID-19 relief money. The program received 581 fully completed applications — including 15 in the lodging category — on Wednesday (June 23), its first day accepting applications.
Applications will be accepted through July 9, and the order they are received has no bearing on priority. But if funds are limited, lodging businesses with at least 10 rooms will be addressed first before a lottery then determines which companies in need will get money.
Inns of Virginia Falls Church Manager Michael Riddlemoser said he was unaware of the PIVOT grant or whether his company is applying for the money but felt it could be useful to try. He said his 32-room hotel is around 50% full, down from 75 to 80% before March 2020.
While some travelers come specifically for Tysons or business in Virginia, declining travel to D.C. has been a blow to Riddlemoser’s lodging business. As hotels in Washington fill up, it brings a trickle-down effect that boosts locations like his.
“We just need more people coming into town,” he said. “D.C. [needs] to get full for us to start getting the D.C. business.”
Managers at nearby hotels also reported being around half capacity. One said many furloughed staff are inquiring about when they can return, and three wedding parties stayed there recently.
A study commissioned by the Tysons Partnership found that the region’s hotel business could rebound by 2025.
“The COVID-19 pandemic that has devastated the hospitality sector has not spared Tysons hotels, which have seen revenues drop by 64%,” the study said. “Still, this is a modest decline relative to major regional competitors.”
The study noted that Tysons is expected to add another 478 hotel rooms this year with the completion of The Archer in Scotts Run and the Watermark in Capital One Center. Those new hotels say they’ll open in late summer and October, respectively.
The leisure and hospitality sector has lost 3.1 million jobs during the pandemic, representing over a third of all unemployment in the U.S., according to an American Hotel & Lodging Association report from February.
The report said the industry lost over 17,000 jobs in Virginia last year and was projected to lose over 13,000 jobs this year.
UNITE HERE Local 25, which represents about 7,200 hospitality workers across the DC region, had only 2% of members working last July, but the employment rate has bounced back to 25% in Northern Virginia, according to Benjy Cannon, the union’s director of communications.
Cannon attributes recent gains over the last eight weeks to vaccinations and domestic travel.
But the union believes pre-pandemic occupancy levels won’t return until international travel and long-term business travel returns, Cannon said. With unemployment benefits set to expire in September, that could lead the group to press legislators for changes.
“By late 2023, 2024, the industry is slated to recover stronger than it was in 2019,” Cannon said. “So, while this is an unfortunate bump in the road and our members are certainly mourning over it, we do still think that this region, this market, can recover in a really robust fashion and expect it to, even if it’s still a few years away.”
Photo via Febrian Zakaria on Unsplash
Fairfax County is slated to send additional funding to businesses that suffered the most during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a Black nonprofit says more can be done.
The Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce has repeatedly been neglected in the development of major business grant programs connected to Fairfax County, the nonprofit’s executive director Sheila Dixon says.
“I would have thought we would have had the opportunity to be at the table,” she said.
The county says it’s committed to working with more than 55 chambers, including minority chambers, multicultural groups, and other community and business support groups in multiple languages with its most recent financial assistance initiative.
A working group of local minority business owners is also trying to make changes and build bridges. A webinar co-hosted by the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia on June 23 seeks to address the needs of minority-owned businesses and how they can be helped.
The group has reached some conclusions and recommendations about equitable recovery across the region and is sharing data, according to the event description. Georgetown University adjunct professor Melissa Bradley, who also co-founded a business mentoring service called Ureeka, is the keynote speaker.
The county has noted these kinds of inequities. A consultant report for the county completed in January detailed how low-income and minority households faced greater difficulties in the workforce, along with women, who have been held back by affordable child care challenges.
Those findings came from working with businesses and a roundtable of minority chambers. The Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce was invited to give input and was also asked to participate in a survey about impacts and recovery, according to the county.
Fairfax County’s Relief Initiative to Support Employers (RISE) program, which gave grants to small businesses and nonprofits, dedicated at least 30% of funding to businesses owned by women, minorities, or veterans. Those businesses ended up with 72% of the approximately $53 million of RISE funding, according to the county.
“We are building on and expanding those efforts,” county spokesperson Wendy Lemieux said in an email, adding that the county is committed to extensive outreach with businesses, particularly ones owned by women and people of color affected by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Black chamber of commerce has shared the PIVOT grant information, but it’s also continuing its own initiatives to help businesses recover from the economic effects of COVID-19.
The organization recently launched an outreach called BTRNow (Build Thriving Returns Now) that provided an online workshop for kid entrepreneurs this spring, held a “Caring through COVID” panel discussion on Monday (June 14), and is currently carrying out a listening tour, among other programming.
Dixon says a lot of the chamber’s members have pivoted amid the pandemic and have been thriving.
But she also noted that there can be disparities, and various Black businesses might be reluctant to apply for resources if they’re skeptical that the support will materialize, even if race is considered as a factor in applications.
“It will be interesting to see if people feel more comfortable,” Dixon said. “We are building up and scaling up our businesses and providing them with the education and the resources that are available within the community.”
Photo via Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash
Arts organizations, museums, and hotels are some of the key targets for Fairfax County’s new initiative to get money to those in need, and informational sessions are providing help.
Approved by the county board last week, the PIVOT program will provide financial grants to small businesses as well as other recipients, and webinars about the effort will begin at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) in English and at 2 p.m. Thursday (June 17) in Spanish.
Links to the webinars can be found on the Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives website.
“Fairfax County is committed to helping businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic,” Board of Supervisor Chairman Jeff McKay said in a news release. “Through the PIVOT grant we will help those businesses who saw the greatest financial impact regain their momentum so they will be able to thrive in the reopening marketplace.”
Federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act is supporting the program with $25 million to the county.
Applications can be submitted online through a grant portal that will be open from June 23 to July 9. The money is being administered through the nonprofit Latino Economic Development Center, said Rebecca Moudry, director of Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives.
The areas targeted will give relief to food services, lodging, retail, services, amusements, arts organizations, museums, and historical sites.
Potential monetary awards for individual businesses and nonprofits include the following:
- $18,000 for restaurants with less than $3.5 million in annual receipts or gross revenue per establishment
- $12,000 for retail, services, and amusements with less than $3.5 million in annual receipts or gross revenue per establishment
- $10,000 for large arts organizations, museums, and historical sites with annual receipts or gross revenue greater than $100,000
- $5,000 for smaller arts organizations
- $1,500 for food trucks that don’t belong to a restaurant
- $400 per room to hotels with a minimum of 10 rooms
The money will go to businesses that have no more than 500 employees, among other criteria. Nonprofits don’t have an eligibility restriction regarding the number of workers they have.
“Fairfax County’s PIVOT grants will target grant money to the arts who experienced a 98% program cancellation and venue closures during the pandemic,” ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda Sullivan said in an email, adding that despite the economic losses, arts pivoted to online offerings to keep the community engaged. “We hope to see the arts come back strong.”
The new outreach comes after the county ended its Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers (RISE) program last year, distributing around $53 million, one of several financial outreaches by the county.
The PIVOT grants will go to hotels first, then to other organizations if demand is too great. The county could also add to the funding in the future.
Photo via Clay Banks on Unsplash