As our community grapples with a global pandemic, the scale of which we have not seen in a century, we’ve been forced to wrestle with loss in all its forms: loss of life, loss of health (and health insurance), loss of income, loss of certainty, loss of touch, loss of time.
Our schedules, budgets, relationships, and routines have all been disrupted. Weddings have been postponed; graduation ceremonies canceled, and funerals are conducted online, if at all. Our best-laid plans have gone awry -- put on pause or crushed completely. COVID-19 is a shared trauma, and every type of loss is valid to feel. It has forced us to re-examine our lives and our priorities.
It has been said that COVID-19 is not so much a great equalizer as a great revealer. It’s exposed great inequities in our country and our county; it’s hit low-wage workers, people of color, people with pre-existing health conditions, the homeless, and the elderly harder than the rest of us. The imbalance does not end there. Millennials (who already suffered one recession and should be approaching peak earning years) and women (who are more likely to bear the brunt of childcare) are likely to take the hardest hits to their careers.
The virus has shown us just how close to the edge many people live, but it has also shown us the generosity of our community as many have responded.
When an uncontained catastrophe brings an economy to its knees, government must transform itself to meet extraordinary need. A global pandemic is cause for government to rise, rather than retreat. Now more than ever, we must serve the people who entrusted us with the power to lead.
The newly passed county budget is a true reflection of our ability to adapt in a crisis. The Prince William Board of County Supervisors allotted nearly $4 million to provide additional resources to the community in response to COVID-19. Highlights include:
Food: $200,000 has been set aside to establish a Community Feeding Task Force to help those who are struggling to access enough food. The task force is a partnership among Prince William County; ACTS; the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park; and the Prince William County Community Foundation. A temporary warehouse serves as the nucleus for food distribution to the more than 40 charities and other partners across the county serving as distribution sites. In April alone, the task force distributed over 200,000 pounds of food. To find the closest distribution site to collect food or make a donation, review this map.
Housing: The Board set aside $500,000 to address housing. Those struggling to pay rent can apply for assistance through the Housing Emergency Aid program. Funding was also designated for emergency shelter services, telephone reassurance, and food for those who lack housing during this crisis. Homeless community members who have tested positive for or been exposed to COVID-19, or who are at higher risk should they contract it (those who are 60 or older or have an underlying medical condition) are eligible to be temporarily placed in motels. To get connected to housing programs, contact the Coordinated Entry System at 703-792-3366.
Small business relief: The small business relief fund, which will use up to $1 million in existing economic development funding, will support businesses whose needs are not met by the federal Small Business Association loan program. Until then, you may schedule a free one-on-one business consultation with a Department of Economic Development staff member by calling 703-792-5510.
Child and adult protective services: The Board set aside $200,000 for child and adult protective services. Children and vulnerable adults are particularly at risk during a period of social distancing, potentially leaving them trapped around the clock with abusers who are under heightened stress. If you suspect a child or an adult is in danger, report it to the Department of Social Services at 703-792-4200.
Local government is the body closest to the people, as we deliver vital human services daily. I am pleased by the Board’s decision to fund a robust COVID-19 response, and I encourage anyone in need of support to contact my office at 703-792-4640.
We will get through this together, Prince William, because we are #princewilliamstrong.
The writer, a Democrat, is the at-large chair of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.