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Henrico launches rental assistance program for residents impacted by the COVID economy

Funding is available for qualifying, income-eligible households that have been impacted by job loss, furlough, reduction in hours of pay or other factors resulting from the economic downturn precipitated by the pandemic.

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Henrico residents who are experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic and are at risk of losing their rental house or apartment can apply for emergency support through the Henrico COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance program.

Funding is available for qualifying, income-eligible households that have been impacted by job loss, furlough, reduction in hours of pay or other factors resulting from the economic downturn precipitated by the pandemic. The emergency program is designed to prevent homelessness; assistance is intended for Henrico renters facing the imminent loss of their residence.

Henrico County has received $360,000 from the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act to fund the effort.

Since the pandemic surfaced in central Virginia in mid-March, more than 33,900 Henrico residents have filed initial unemployment claims through July 4, according to data from the Virginia Employment Commission. More than 15,200 residents have filed continuing unemployment claims.

Applications in English and Spanish are available from Henrico’s Department of Social Services. Residents can download and print the application or request that one is mailed to them. Beginning Monday, July 13, residents can pick up an application at Social Services’ offices at 8600 Dixon Powers Drive and 3820 Nine Mile Road.

Emergency rental payments of up to $1,500 per month will be made on behalf of Henrico residents who qualify for the program. The payments, which can cover overdue rent, delinquency fees, and court filing fees, will be made for up to four months. Applicants will need to provide documentation regarding the economic impact of the pandemic on their finances and household income as well as additional verification.

The Henrico COVID-19 Rental Assistance program will continue while funding is available.

Additional information is available from Social Services and by calling (804) 501-5294.

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Crime

City to provide grants to businesses damaged during recent civil unrest

“Though many protests have been peaceful, sporadic nights of severe property damage have hurt our small business community,” said Mayor Stoney. “These grants will help those establishments get back on their feet and send a message to the owners and employees of those businesses that they’re heard, they’re valued and we’re in this together.”

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The City of Richmond has recommended that City Council allocate $500,000 to create the Business Recovery Grant Program. Under this new, one-time program, grants will be awarded to eligible local businesses, non-profit organizations, and commercial property owners to recover costs from damage during recent demonstrations within city limits.

“Though many protests have been peaceful, sporadic nights of severe property damage have hurt our small business community,” said Mayor Stoney. “These grants will help those establishments get back on their feet and send a message to the owners and employees of those businesses that they’re heard, they’re valued and we’re in this together.”

The grants will be a reimbursement of expenses paid to repair property destruction during the recent civil unrest.  This could include window repair, graffiti removal and more. The maximum grant award is $10,000 for a single commercial property address.

The city’s Commercial Area Revitalization Effort (CARE) Program is the proposed funding source for the one-time grant program. The normal CARE Program grants will not be impacted by the creation of the one-time grant program.

If funding for the Business Recovery Grant Program is approved during the August 10, 2020 City Council meeting, the program guidelines will be posted on the city website and applications can be submitted electronically starting August 13.

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Crime

City introduces ordinance to prohibit firearms adjacent to events requiring permitting

Currently, the code bans firearms in city-owned and -operated parks and facilities. The newly introduced ordinance would also prohibit the possession, carrying, or transportation of any firearms in any public street, road, alley, sidewalk, public right-of-way, or any open public space when it is being used by, or is adjacent to, an event that requires a city permit. 

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At the August 10 meeting of the Richmond City Council, the Stoney administration introduced an ordinance to modify current Richmond City Code section 19-334.1; Carrying Firearms in Certain Places.

Currently, the code bans firearms in city-owned and -operated parks and facilities. The newly introduced ordinance would also prohibit the possession, carrying, or transportation of any firearms in any public street, road, alley, sidewalk, public right-of-way, or any open public space when it is being used by, or is adjacent to, an event that requires a city permit.

This ordinance does not broadly ban firearms in these public spaces. Rather, it bans firearms when a permitted event, or an event that should be permitted, is taking place.

The expansion to the existing ordinance is intended to promote the health and safety of event attendees and city residents as a whole.

“The City of Richmond proudly hosts hundreds of public events each year, but I believe it’s in the interest of everyone’s safety to take guns out of these spaces when neighbors, visitors and families gather,” said Mayor Stoney. “Under this proposed change, Richmond residents will be able to attend public events with a greater sense of security, knowing that the city is actively prioritizing their safety.”

In 2019, the mayor introduced the ordinance that prohibits the carrying of firearms in city-owned and -operated parks and facilities. As soon as the General Assembly adopted legislation granting that authority to localities, the ordinance went into effect.

This most recent proposed change is also made possible by a recent amendment by the Virginia General Assembly to the Code of Virginia, which now authorizes localities to prohibit firearms in this instance.

“As a city, we must exhaust all possible options to reduce gun violence in our communities and neighborhoods,” said Mayor Stoney. “I’m thankful the state has finally given us a vital tool in building a safer Richmond.”

The proposed ordinance, which must be approved by Richmond City Council to take effect, does not apply to authorized military personnel in the performance of their lawful duties, law enforcement officers or security guards contracted or employed by the City of Richmond.

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VDH launches first of its kind contact tracing app to help stop the spread of COVID-19

Virginia is the first state in the country to design a COVID-19 app using Bluetooth Low Energy technology developed by Apple and Google, which does not rely on personal information or location data. Users opt-in to download and utilize the free app.

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Governor Ralph Northam on Wednesday announced the launch of COVIDWISE, an innovative exposure notification app that will alert users if they have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. Virginia is the first state in the country to design a COVID-19 app using Bluetooth Low Energy technology developed by Apple and Google, which does not rely on personal information or location data. Users opt-in to download and utilize the free app.

“We must continue to fight COVID-19 from every possible angle,” Governor Northam said in a news release. “The COVIDWISE exposure notification app gives you an additional tool to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community while maintaining your personal privacy. I encourage all Virginians to download and use this app, so we can work together to contain this virus.”

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) developed COVIDWISE in partnership with Spring ML using funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The free app is available to download through the App Store and the Google Play Store. COVIDWISE is the only app in Virginia allowed to use the exposure notifications system (ENS) application programming interface (API) jointly created by Apple and Google. Other countries, including Ireland and Germany, have successfully used this technology in similar apps.

“As COVID-19 cases continue to be identified across the Commonwealth, it is important for people to know whether they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the disease,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “COVIDWISE will notify you if you’ve likely been exposed to another app user who anonymously shared a positive COVID-19 test result. Knowing your exposure history allows you to self-quarantine effectively, seek timely medical attention, and reduce potential exposure risk. The more Virginians use COVIDWISE, the greater the likelihood that you will receive timely exposure notifications that lead to effective disease prevention.”

COVIDWISE works by using random Bluetooth keys that change every 10 to 20 minutes. iOS and Android devices that have the app installed will anonymously share these random keys if they are within close proximity for at least 15 minutes. Each day, the device downloads a list of all random keys associated with positive COVID-19 results submitted by other app users and checks them against the list of random keys it has encountered in the last 14 days. If there is a match, COVIDWISE may notify the individual, taking into account the date and duration of exposure, and the Bluetooth signal strength which is used to estimate proximity.

Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be notified by a VDH case investigator and will be given a unique numeric code. This code is entered into the app by the user and serves as verification of a positive report. Others who have downloaded COVIDWISE and have been in close proximity to the individual who reported as being positive will receive a notice which reads, “You have likely been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.” This is your alert to get tested.

The notice includes the estimated number of days since the exposure and provides several options for taking further action, including contacting a primary care physician or local health department, monitoring symptoms, and finding nearby test locations. The Virtual VDH tab within the app also provides links to online resources and relevant phone numbers.

Anyone who downloads the app has the option to choose to receive exposure notifications, and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not to share their result anonymously through COVIDWISE. No location data or personal information is ever collected, stored, tracked, or transmitted to VDH as part of the app. Users have the ability to delete the app or turn off exposure notifications at any time.

Officials say widespread use is critical to the success of this effort, and VDH is launching a robust, statewide public information campaign to make sure Virginians are aware of the COVIDWISE app, its privacy protection features, and how it can be used to support public health and help reduce the spread of the virus.

To learn more about COVIDWISE and download the app, visit www.covidwise.org.

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