The Arlington Chamber of Commerce and Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association followed up on recent advocacy by Arlington hotels for a local hospitality grant by recommending that Arlington enact a hotel grant similar to those in neighboring jurisdictions. The organizations recommended grants of at least $400 per hotel room, which is the same as Fairfax County offered its PIVOT program, and providing all hotels with relief for at least their first 250 rooms, as in Loudoun County. Hotels have a current need to meet obligations that are critical to maintaining the ongoing operation of their businesses. A grant program will allow for Arlington hotels to rehire furloughed staff, prepare for the uncertain travel period ahead, and safely budget for the near future.
The Chamber encouraged Arlington County not to implement a five-cent tax on plastic bags at this time. The General Assembly gave localities the power to impose this tax with a goal of motivating consumers to use reusable carriers. But, many grocers suspended the use of patron-provided totes earlier in the pandemic, and there is the risk that the tax will not serve its purpose if stores reinstitute such rules to protect their front-line workers. There is also considerable risk that the tax’s impacts will be felt inequitably across the community, including burdening small, independent, neighborhood-serving retailers most.
The Chamber encouraged Arlington County to include industry-specific terms for hotels in its upcoming business recovery grant program. The hospitality and tourism industry is facing unique and persistent challenges in recovering from the pandemic. Arlington’s hotel occupancy rates are still down considerably from their pre-pandemic levels, which is having a prolonged impact on jobs at hotels and also at stores and restaurants that serve visitors. An effective and equitable grant program will address the hospitality industry’s needs directly, rather than attempting to serve all businesses with the same terms. The Chamber further encouraged Arlington County to look toward regional counterparts for instructive examples of effective hotel grant programs.
The Chamber expressed support for including funds for the Metro and construction of second entrances at Ballston and Crystal City Metro stops in the Arlington County Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for FY 2022-2024. Metrorail serves as the backbone of Arlington’s transportation management program and is a primary driver of economic development in Arlington and the metropolitan region. The CIP also secures funding for critical improvements to transportation infrastructure including the second entrances at the Ballston and Crystal City Metro stations and improvements to transit and multimodal services on Columbia Pike.
The Chamber encouraged Arlington County to establish a new direct financial grant program for local businesses with its coronavirus response funding. Such a program would build on the successful GRANT program last year. Businesses continue to cite access to capital for pandemic-response activities as their greatest need. Capital grants allow businesses to invest in what they individually need to retain or restore jobs, and maintain their businesses as Arlington works through the economic recovery from the pandemic.
The Chamber requested that the Arlington County Board restore a Principal Planner position in the Arlington County government due to be frozen in Fiscal Year 2022. Restoring this position will help prevent delays in planning studies for which applicants pay cost-recovery fees. Prompt review of development projects is also an investment in Arlington’s future through the taxes they will generate when completed.
The Chamber requested that the Arlington County Board restore a proposed reduction in operating funds for the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service (ACVS) for Fiscal Year 2022. Restoring its operating funds will allow ACVS to build back its travel marketing activities, which will support Arlington's hotels in regaining room occupancy and restoring jobs lost during the coronavirus pandemic. Bridging ACVS's funding will help restore its future revenue stream through increased Transient Occupancy Tax revenues.
The Chamber sent a letter to the Arlington County Board calling upon them to allocate a portionits funding under the CARES Act to purchase rapid saliva tests for COVID-19, and to share those tests (or sell at cost, if possible) with businesses, nonprofits, and other community groups. Rapid testing is essential for smooth functioning of businesses and other important facets of society such as schools. Access to tests will help Arlington businesses to reduce the risk of operation and of community spread of the virus.
In a letter to County Board Chair Katie Cristol, the Chamber voiced concerns with several key parts of the FY 2019 budget proposal, including the continued tweaking of the Crystal City TIF, funding cuts for planning on Lee Highway, and increased parking meter fees.
The Arlington Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette objecting to the $66 annual Recycling System Compliance and Inspection fee that the County has imposed on all business locations.
The Chamber sent a letter to the Arlington County Board to lend its support to two different funding proposals that would enhance economic development in Arlington: the Economic Development Incentive Fund and the re-implementation of the 0.25% transient occupancy tax (TOT) surcharge.