How Arlington Is Supporting Businesses And Families In Uncertain Times
It has often been said that small businesses are the backbone of the economy, and while that may not be true for all U.S. cities, it certainly is for Arlington, Virginia. More than 92% of Arlington businesses have 50 or fewer employees, and when the coronavirus pandemic hit, those businesses were faced with uncertain futures and impossible choices, all without a large corporate owner to back them up.
Arlington entered Phase 3 of the Forward Virginia reopening plan on July 1, which allowed many of these small businesses to reopen while continuing to encourage patrons to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. While this was a positive step for the local small-business economy, many business owners are still feeling the sting of months of quarantine and looking at a long road to recovery.
Arlington small businesses don’t have to face that road alone. They have support from an affluent community, the county government and local organizations that have all been doing their part to help keep Arlington’s small businesses afloat during these difficult times.
An Abundance Of Small-Business Resources
In June, Arlington County awarded 393 businesses a Small Business Emergency GRANT, which stands for “Giving Resiliency Assets Near Term.” These funds were designed to help small businesses that had been impacted by the pandemic and experienced delays or limitations with receiving federal relief initiatives.
The GRANT program provided $2.8M in funding, and in order to qualify for a loan, businesses had to be located in Arlington County, have fewer than 50 employees and demonstrate revenue losses of 35% or more as a result of the pandemic.
“Our customer-facing small businesses were greatly impacted by the pandemic," Arlington Economic Development Director Telly Tucker said. “So, in response, Arlington County set up the Small Business Emergency GRANT program to provide immediate financial assistance to Arlington’s small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Along with the Small Business Emergency GRANT, small businesses in Arlington were able to apply for the RebuildVA Small Business Grant, which began accepting applications on Aug. 10. The RebuildVA grant offered $70M to Virginia small businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 25 employees.
As businesses slowly continue to reopen, the AED has begun offering a Return to the Workplace Toolkit that features a series of webinars on how different Arlington businesses can safely welcome employees and customers back.
The county has also created several temporary outdoor seating areas so local restaurants can serve more customers while better complying with the state’s Phase 3 requirements, which call for all restaurant parties to be separated by at least 6 feet.
Businesses Supporting The Community
Along with receiving support from Arlington County, local businesses have been doing all they can to bolster the community during this difficult time. Arlington’s Flare Electric Shuttles delivered food to local first responders, while several Arlington restaurants offered free meals to families in need.
Arlington will be the home of Amazon’s HQ2, and in recent months the company has doubled down on its commitment to the county. In the earliest days of the shutdown, the company donated $1M to kick-start emergency pandemic response funds to local community foundations working to support vulnerable populations, including the Arlington Community Foundation and the Arlington Food Assistance Center.
Numerous funds and foundations have been working to assist Arlington families during the pandemic, including the AHC Emergency Response Fund, which provides education services to low-income families; the Arlington Emergency Relief Fund, which provides same-day, emergency financial assistance to county residents; and the Real Food for Kids Support Fund, which increases access to healthy food and nutrition education for children.
The AED said that while many local businesses have been able to successfully pivot to an online model, local hospitality, food and retail industries continue to struggle. Despite this, Tucker is confident that Arlington will come out of this pandemic more resilient than ever.
“Like the entire nation, Arlington continues to feel the effects of the pandemic; however, over the past few years, there has been a strategic focus to diversify our economy such that we are able to better weather difficult times,” Tucker said. “We have faced challenging times over the years including 9/11, the Base Realignment Closure Act and now the COVID-19 pandemic, however, we remain steadfast and determined to be resilient in the face of adversity.”