My View | Heather Peeler: Alexandria is a resilient community

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My View | Heather Peeler: Alexandria is a resilient community
Heather Peeler
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When the coronavirus first took root in Alexandria, none of us knew exactly what to expect.

We knew the pandemic’s two-fisted impact on our community – deadly health outcomes on one hand and economic hardship on the other – would be devastating. Now, as we approach the end of 2020, a new normal is taking shape that will be with us for the foreseeable future.

Experts predict it could take six months to several years before effective vaccines and therapeutics are in widespread use. On the economic front, many economists predict a K-shaped recovery extending several years. A K-shaped recovery describes a bifurcated recovery where some people bounce back faster and more easily than others.

In this scenario, low-wage workers, service-industry workers, the working poor and other marginalized communities will not fare as well as their affluent neighbors. Health and economic inequities are likely to expand.

This is a discouraging outlook. However, my work at ACT for Alexandria, Alexandria’s community foundation, gives me hope. Every day I see Alexandrians who are working tirelessly to build a different future for our community. I see extraordinary leadership and commitment from City Council and city hall, in the schools, in nonprofits, in our faith communities and on the ground in every neighborhood across the city.

Since March, our community has rallied together to invest more than $900,000 in COVID-19 response. And thanks to the city’s $2 million award of CARES Act funds to the Alexandria Resilience Fund, we will double our efforts to support our neighbors in need through the end of the year.

The Alexandria Resilience Fund grew out of the ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund and will be in place as long as necessary to ensure that Alexandria is even stronger and more vibrant than before COVID-19.

The Alexandria Resilience Fund will support the health and sustainability of local nonprofit organizations addressing ongoing and emerging human service needs of city residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It will address economic security, housing stability, food security, access to health services, equity in education, and ensure safe and supportive places and programs for children and their families.

Nonprofit organizations serving Alexandria residents are eligible to apply for up to $50,000 in assistance. Grant proposals will be accepted weekly through Nov. 19 or until all funds are expended. To date, the Alexandria Resilience Fund has awarded $1 million to 45 organizations.

The work of Alexandria’s nonprofits is extraordinary. Here are few examples of the grants awarded from the Alexandria Resilience Fund: 

The Alexandria Housing Development Corporation is the only nonprofit housing developer focused exclusively on Alexandria. Their COVID-19 Emergency Rent Assistance Program supports residents who are struggling to pay rent and proactively prevent evictions.

Computer CORE offers online distance learning courses to Alexandrians so that they can develop the personal and professional skills required by employers. Many are seeking new jobs because their prior positions have been affected by the shutdown. Nearly all of Computer CORE’s students are from historically marginalized communities such as immigrants, English language learners and people of color.

ICNA Relief provides halal food distribution, ESL and computer classes and transitional housing for at-risk women, immigrants and refugees in Alexandria. This grant will enhance their food distribution program and support technology upgrades for the computer and ESL classes.

Tenants and Workers United will hire two new temporary full-time service navigators to help Alexandrians who live in the West End access programs and services including food distribution, rental assistance, legal support and health care. These are just a few examples of the visionary nonprofits supporting hundreds of Alexandrians through the end of the year and beyond. I look forward to sharing the stories and successes of these organizations in the months to come. For more information about the Alexandria Resilience Fund and to support our work, visit www.actforalexandria.org.

The writer is president and CEO of ACT for Alexandria.

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