The Arlington County Board today approved using an additional $1.125 million from the County’s COVID-19 contingent account to fund eviction protection through December 2020 for those affected by the pandemic.
The Board’s action brings the total amount allocated for eviction prevention in Fiscal Year 2021, which began July 1, 2020, to $3.5 million. The Manager based his request for additional funding on the average monthly disbursement of eviction prevention funding from April 2020 – July 2020 of about $.55 million. He cautioned that while the additional assistance should provide enough funding to meet needs through December 2020, he may need to ask the Board for more funding if the economic situation deteriorates further.
“Because of the economic impact of the pandemic, Fiscal Year 2020 has brought a very large increase in the number of households needing help to pay their rent,” County Board Chair Libby Garvey said. “Given the fact of diminished support from the Federal Government and the continuation of community spread of the virus, we believe the need for rent assistance is likely to continue to increase in the coming months. The County is committed to doing what we can to prevent evictions caused by the pandemic and the economic disaster it has triggered.”
Some 1,555 households applied to the County’s Department of Human Services for eviction prevention assistance in FY 2020. The County spent $2.7 million to prevent evictions that year, with payments averaging $1,001.
Helping families buy food
The Board also approved a new Food Security Coordinator position in the Department of Human Services and the start of a pilot program for distributing grocery gift cards to families through the County’s non-profit network. The Board allocated $482,000 from Coronavirus Relief Funds and the County Manager’s Contingent for the new position and the grocery gift card program.
“The statistics are sobering,” Chair Garvey said. “We saw a staggering increase of 84 percent in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program applications between February and May 2020, a 23 percent increase in households seeking food from the Arlington Food Assistance Center, and a 32 percent increase in older adults receiving Home Delivered Meal, and the Capital Area Food Bank is estimating that the region will see a 48 percent to 60 percent in food insecurity over the next year. While volunteers and non-profits have done an amazing job helping since March, we cannot depend on volunteer efforts alone to meet this increased need moving forward.”
The Food Security Coordinator will coordinate all food-related efforts both within the County and among community groups and non-profits who are helping to feed households experiencing food insecurity. The grocery card pilot program will provide $400,000 in funding for families in need of food. The County anticipates that the Arlington Community Foundation may supplement that amount with a $200,000 contribution, which would make it possible to serve up to 500 families for six months, at a projected cost of $200 per family per month.
Qualifying criteria will include self-reported food insecurity, limited community mobility due to health conditions or caregiving responsibilities, and income at or below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, ($26,200 for a family of four). Distribution will be tracked to prevent individuals from receiving gift cards from more than one source.
The Board voted unanimously to approve the eviction prevention funding, Food Security Coordinator position, and grocery gift card pilot program. To read the staff report, visit the County website. Scroll to Item No. 3 on the agenda for the Tuesday, August 25, 2020, County Board Meeting Agenda.
For more information about Arlington’s response to the pandemic, including additional resources for food and financial assistance, and much more, visit the County website.