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United Way kicks off annual free tax prep service

The local nonprofit will offer both in-person and virtual tax preparation services in 2021.

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With an April 15 tax-filing deadline just 10 weeks away, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program officially began last week. The free tax preparation service is offered to area families with household incomes of less than $56,000.

In its 18th year of operation, United Way’s VITA program will utilize a combination of tax sites across Richmond, Goochland, Chesterfield, Henrico, and Charles City as well as online tax preparation services. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person tax sites will operate by appointment only, and spaces may be limited. Sites will follow social distancing guidelines and require masks, and hours of operation are subject to change. An up-to-date list of locations and hours is available at https://www.yourunitedway.org/tax/sites/w.

For online preparation services, United Way will utilize a new secure web portal that allows participants to upload tax information, speak to IRS certified tax preparers and receive help filing taxes online – all for free. Those using the service will need to upload photos of their ID cards and tax documents and answer questions about their tax situation. The service requires filers to have access to the internet and a camera through a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

“With tax season upon us and financial uncertainty due to the pandemic still a reality for many in the region, it is more important than ever for households to be able to plan for what they might owe or have coming back to them,” said James Taylor, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg. “Our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is an impactful service that we provide every year. This year’s blend of in-person and virtual options will allow us to meet this challenging moment and help thousands of local families work toward financial stability.”

In 2020, local United Way volunteers helped secure $2.8 million in tax refunds for 2,790 households in the area. Families who took advantage of the service received a total of $790,000 in EITC funds from the IRS. The average household income for customers was $23,652.

Find more information at https://www.yourunitedway.org/tax/.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Richmond EDA approves grant to ChopChop to create rate reduction program

During its January 28, 2021 meeting, the Economic Development Authority of the City of Richmond approved awarding a $120,000 grant to local restaurant delivery company ChopChop.  The grant will allow the company to create the Richmond Rate Reduction Program. 

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During its January 28, 2021 meeting, the Economic Development Authority of the City of Richmond approved awarding a $120,000 grant to local restaurant delivery company ChopChop.  The grant will allow the company to create the Richmond Rate Reduction Program.

The Richmond Rate Reduction Program reduces delivery fees charged to local restaurants from 20% to 7% for a three-month period.  The company will also add 75-100 new restaurants, breweries, and distilleries to its delivery platform and create 150 new jobs (3-5 permanent employees and 145-148 contracted delivery jobs) during the three-month period.  The long-term objective is for ChopChop to keep its delivery fee charged to restaurants at 7 percent.

“My team and I are very excited for this opportunity to not only expand our offerings, but also allow restaurants to retain more profit when they need it most,” said ChopChop Owner and Operator Chris Chandler. “A 13 percent rate reduction will make a significant difference, especially now that meal delivery is so prevalent.”

“Richmonders have been supporting our restaurant industry diligently by ordering takeout and delivery since March,” said Mayor Stoney. “The next time you order through ChopChop, more of your bill will go directly to the restaurants you love, supporting employees and management alike.”

ChopChop currently has 120 employees on staff, 98 percent of which are contracted drivers who work 5 to 40 hours per week.  The company currently serves approximately 65 percent of the City of Richmond. The growth from this program will allow the company to serve the entire city.

“When the Small Business Support Grant Programs Cooperation Agreement was authorized, our goal was to help restaurants save on delivery costs,” said EDA Chairman John Molster, “The grant to ChopChop meets that goal and goes above and beyond to provide jobs and expand delivery capacity.”

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City of Richmond distributing 200 donated outdoor heaters to restaurants, other small businesses

Eligible small businesses in the City of Richmond can register online to receive one or two outdoor heat lamps to warm their outdoor seating areas over the winter.

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Mayor Stoney announced Thursday that the City has opened the online registration for eligible small businesses in the City to receive an outdoor heat lamp.  The City’s Department of Economic Development and the Provisional Policy Advisor for Restaurants and Small Business are coordinating the distribution of the outdoor heat lamps donated by Evergreen Enterprises. The online registration process is designed to verify the eligibility of small businesses to receive an outdoor heat lamp.

Eligible small businesses in the City of Richmond can register online to receive an outdoor heat lamp at http://www.rvastrong.org/heatlamps. Applications will be accepted beginning on Thursday, January 28, 2021, through Monday, February 1, 2021, at 12:00pm EST.  Approved businesses will be notified via email or telephone with instructions to pick up their outdoor heat lamp(s).

“The donation of these outdoor heat lamps could not have come at a better time. For many small businesses, this tool will be what gets them through our coldest months,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “We are so thankful to Evergreen for their generosity, and are excited to get these heaters in the hands of those who need them most.”

Eligible small businesses must be currently open for business, sell prepared meals and/or beverages, or provide take-out prepared meals and/or beverages, and operate in a commercial building. Eligible businesses must also have a permanent approved outdoor dining/patio space, a temporary approved outdoor dining/patio space, an active application to get approval for an outdoor dining/patio space, or an outdoor waiting area for customers.

Businesses that have up to six outdoor seats and/or an outdoor customer pick-up area will be eligible to receive one outdoor heat lamp. Businesses that have seven or more outdoor seats will be eligible to receive two outdoor heat lamps.

“Throughout the last year, we’ve seen businesses fight back against the burden of the pandemic by getting creative and being flexible,” said Policy Advisor and distribution coordinator Jason Alley. “We hope that the donated heat lamps will allow businesses to continue that fight by offering patrons a safer way to support their business.”

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Kroger wraps up $2 million remodel of Lombardy Street store near VCU

Highlights of the remodel include seven new self-checkout lanes, expanded adult beverage and dairy departments along with upgrades to the chicken and sushi cases in the deli department and an upgraded pharmacy department.

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The Kroger store near VCU has gotten a major $2 million renovation at its Lombardy store located at 901 N Lombardy Street in Richmond. To mark the occasion, Councilwoman Katherine Jordan, along with Kroger Mid-Atlantic leadership and store associates, participated in a ribbon cutting.

As part of the reopening, Kroger Mid-Atlantic will make donations totaling $2,000 to four Richmond-area nonprofits that were selected by Lombardy store associates. The organizations receiving $500 donations include:

  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond
  • P&G Foundation
  • Second Baptist Church Food Pantry
  • St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church Richmond Food Pantry

“Our customers have been gracious during the remodel process,” said Kenny Williams, store manager of the Lombardy Kroger. “We’re excited to offer our loyal customers an updated store with enhancements throughout.”

Highlights of the remodel include seven new self-checkout lanes, expanded adult beverage and dairy departments along with upgrades to the chicken and sushi cases in the deli department and an upgraded pharmacy department.

Other enhancements of the remodel include:

  • Updated customer restrooms
  • Updated décor and navigation throughout the store
  • New bakery tables and inline fixtures
  • New exterior signage and updated sidewalks

The store has 165 full-time and part-time associates. 30 of those associates were hired as a result of the remodel.

“Some of our most exciting days at Kroger are when we have the opportunity to open a new store or remodel an existing store,” said Allison McGee, corporate affairs manager for Kroger Mid-Atlantic. “Our whole team is celebrating this remodel and we’re excited to offer an upgraded store to our customers in Richmond.”

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