December 4, 2020: Virginia is shifting how rental and mortgage relief program will be administered
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In today’s newsletter:
Charlottesville seeks cooperation to keep gatherings in city parks below 25 people
Virginia will soon move into a new phase of its rent and mortgage relief program
The Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia wins another award
The seven-day average for positive PCR tests in Virginia has climbed to 9.5 percent, up from 8.8 percent yesterday, and 7.3 percent a week ago. There are another 2,877 cases reported today. The Blue Ridge Health District posted another 80 cases, with 40 cases from Albemarle, 18 cases from Charlottesville, six from Fluvanna, five from Greene, five from Louisa and six from Nelson. There have been no new COVID-19 fatalities reported in the health district since November 26. The statewide fatality count is 4,160 today.
The city of Charlottesville will begin to more closely monitor gatherings at city parks, including the recently opened skate facility in McIntire Park. That’s according to a press release sent out this morning.
“Last weekend, more than 75 individuals were observed in the Skate Park at one time,” reads the release. “The nature of such activity makes social distancing difficult and many participants were observed without face coverings. Increased supervision and enforcement of the City’s COVID-19 ordinance would lead to City employees being placed at an even greater risk during a critical stage in the pandemic.”
Violation of the gathering rules is either a Class 3 or Class 4 misdemeanor and comes with a $500 fine.
City Council is expected to vote Monday on an extension and update of the local declaration of a public health emergency.
A local regional government agency will soon wind down its administration of a statewide rental and mortgage relief program. Christine Jacobs is the Housing Coordinator for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. She briefed representatives from area localities about the statewide program.
“As of last week, $23.9 million in emergency assistance has been deployed in less than 5 months and over 8,800 households across the Commonwealth have received emergency support,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said the TJPDC’s contract with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development will end on December 31. After that, the state agency will contract with one private company that will take applications from landlords seeking relief, and a second will process applications from homeowners and tenants.
Jacobs said the TJPDC stopped taking applications on Monday.
“Starting December 1, which was Tuesday of this week, all new applications are processed through that state level point of intake,” Jacobs said. She said a final report on how much funding TJPDC has been able to distribute will be available in the middle of the month.
“Mid-month also is when they will begin to advertise a public launch of RRMP 2.0,” Jacobs said. “Right now it is more of a soft launch because the regional agencies are still under contract and are able to process applications.”
Locally, the TJPDC has distributed $1.372 million in funding and has another $274,000 request pending with the DHCD.
The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is prepared to move ahead with regional administration of additional taxes on cigarettes should area localities decide to impose them. Counties can begin to levy such taxes as of July 1, 2021. David Blount is the legislative liaison for the TJPDC.
“Counties are starting to look at discussing their budgets for fiscal year 22 which begins next July,” Blount said. “They are looking at the cigarette tax as an option for implementing in that next budget.”
The TJPDC hosted an information session this week on the tax and how it may be collected. There is a Northern Virginia Cigarette Tax Board that covers 19 localities, and that arrangement is an option for this region.
Blount also briefed the Commission on the upcoming General Assembly session, which is scheduled to convene on January 13.
“There is some question at this point as to if the session is going to be its typical 46 days which is what the short sessions are as opposed to the long session of 60 days, or if its only going to be 30 days,” Blount said.
The Virginia Constitution restricts sessions in odd number years to 30 days unless a two-thirds vote in both the House of Delegates and the Senate agree to extend it. (Article IV)
“Here a couple of weeks ago the GOP Republican leadership indicated they would not be willing to go along with extending the session this year,” Blount said. “That remains to be seen where we land. We’ll get to Richmond on January 13.”
Blount said the General Assembly met for two months in special session this fall, and will meet again for a redistricting special session in the spring. The House of Delegates will meet remotely, and the Senate will meet on site.
“We do expect fewer bills this year because of some limitations that the House and Senate have put on themselves,” Blount said.
In other TJPDC related news, executive director Chip Boyles said the agency is seeking a grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation to pay for a transportation study of U.S. 29 between Airport Road in Albemarle County and Ruckersville in Greene County.
“There’s a lot of growth happening in both Albemarle and Greene in that section,” Boyles said.
In recent years, U.S. 29 in the Hollymead area has been widened to six lanes. VDOT will begin construction of a reconfiguration of the junction of U.S. 29 and U.S. 33 next winter. But what about the miles in between?
“We think it’s really, really important for this corridor of statewide significance to begin to be looked at to fill that gap,” Boyles said.
At the end of the meeting, Commissioners from throughout the region had the ability to check in. Jesse Rutherford of the Nelson Board of Supervisors said his county is working with the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative on an ambitious goal.
“We’re about to cut a deal with the co-op, Albemarle are you listening? Please, I hope you are, that one hundred percent of the residents of Nelson County will have access to fiber internet by 2024,” Rutherford said.
At the conclusion of the meeting. TJPDC Chair Dale Martin had these words.
“To all the Commissioners present, it’s been a very tough year, it’s been a tough year for everyone involved,” Martin said. “I know that you’ve been struggling personally, struggling with your citizens and localities, trying to do what’s best for your community, and also struggling to attend these meetings. This is a very unusual time in our history and I think that each of you are doing a tremendous job as well.”
The TJPDC will next meet on February 4, 2021.
The University of Virginia Memorial to Enslaved Laborers has been awarded the honor of Project of the Year by the Architect’s Newspaper. The memorial was completed earlier this year and was designed by Höweler + Yoon Architecture in collaboration with Mabel O. Wilson and Gregg Bleam Landscape Architect. According to an article on UVA Today, the diameter of the memorial is the same as the Rotunda, and contains the names of those people who are known to have been enslaved as well as placeholders for those whose identities and stories are waiting to be told.