Updates from Letty – April 3, 2020

Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council

Dear Friends,

City Council meetings resume next Monday – our first ever, fully virtual City Council meeting with each of us connecting from our homes. You can tune in at the same time, same place – 730 pm streaming online or FCC-TV if you have cable. If you have comments, please send in advance to cityclerk@fallschurchva.gov. Besides updating our emergency declaration and an ordinance to allow us to conduct essential business electronically during the emergency – I expect the most interesting parts of the meeting will be the discussion of early COVID-19 budget impacts (current fiscal year FY20 and the FY21 budget, now paused til May) and relief efforts for struggling businesses and individuals. Keep reading for some quick updates on what you’ve missed this week.

For years, I’ve lamented that civic engagement and Virginia meeting laws need to catch up to the 21st century: it shouldn’t take getting a babysitter or missing work, dinner, bedtime stories, or soccer games in order to show up to City Hall to participate in local government. I just wish it didn’t take a global pandemic to get us here. Perhaps this will be one of the silver linings on the other side – that private employers and governments alike will permanently embrace more flexible work arrangements, find creative ways for citizen participation, and we’ll actually see both productivity and engagement increase as a result.

As the weather turns warmer and we head into what is supposed to be spring break next week, I know the grief and longing for a return to “normal” only grows. The bright spot remains the resilience of this community and all the different ways I’ve seen us adapt to our circumstances – from virtual story time, contactless carryout, Zoom happy hours, the generosity of residents and businesses lifting up others, to the professionalism and grace of our city and school leaders navigating unchartered waters. We have a ways to go – Virginia peak infections are projected to be in late April to May. Keep up the good work with social distancing and staying home.

Take care,

What Happened This Week (TL;DR edition)

1. Virginia, Stay at Home: Governor Northam ordered state-wide “stay home” mandate until June 10th. While this is similar to what was asked of us previously, the order provides more enforcement authority. See here for more info and here for a good list of FAQs.

2. More Cancellations: sadly, an implication of the new executive order is that more beloved spring activities are cancelled: spring youth soccer, Memorial Day Parade and Festival, and Bike to Work Day.

3. City Hall Closed, Moves Virtual: City Hall is now closed to the public, but residents and businesses can access most services online or by phone; appointments for individuals will also be available. More info here. An outdoor drop box has been installed at the City Hall entrance for residents and businesses to turn in payments for taxes and permits, applications, and other City government paperwork.

4. Social distancing vs self isolation vs quarantine – by now, everyone knows what social distancing means. You may need to do more depending on your health status. This is a good explanation.

5. Census 2020: April 1st was Census Day. However, it was *not* a deadline, so it’s not too late to respond – especially any college students who are home and missed getting their census questionnaire by mail. A common FAQ:

–> Q: How should college students who are home due to COVID-19 closures be counted?

–> A: According to the Census Bureau’s Official Residence Criteria for the 2020 Census, college students will be counted at their “usual residence” on April 1, 2020 or where they live and sleep “most of the time.”

This means that college students should be counted at their college address (either on- or off-campus), even if they are staying at their parents’ or guardians’ home on Census Day while on break, vacation, or due to COVID-19 closures.

6. Calling All City Businesses and Non-Profits: the application for CARES/PPP federal relief is now available. There is a funding cap on the program, so City businesses and non-profits should apply as soon as possible. Find out more here, including some useful guides on how to get started.

7. Let’s End On A High Note: if you haven’t seen this already, a good reminder https://vimeo.com/402225856

What’s Coming Up: