Not without minor technical glitches as the region begins to get used to remote forms of public events, Virginia State Del. Marcus Simon from the 53rd District that includes the City of Falls Church and Fairfax County, along with Supervisor Dalia Palchik representing the Providence District adjacent Falls Church, held a virtual town hall originally scheduled for a public place today. In an audience that ranged up to 44 viewers, the two responded to questions both about the current pandemic and, for Simon, the recently-concluded legislative session in Richmond.
The News-Press sat in at Del. Simon’s home for the event, and Supervisor Palchick participated from her home.
Viewers were directed to the Fairfax County Health Department’s website for periodic updates on the pandemic in the City and county, with Palchik noting that there are at latest count 16 cases of diagnosed COVID-19 persons in the Fairfax Health District (which has since increased to 22 as of Saturday afternoon), including one in the City of Falls Church. Persons experiencing symptoms and seeking testing were directed to the Inova Hospital on Gallows Road. Palchik also pointed to volunteer opportunities through the county public schools, as there are currently 44 locations in the county where food for students and parents in need can be picked up and seven bus routes circulating to provide for families in need.
Simon also noted the daily video updates coming from the office of Governor Ralph Northam. He said that while there are considerable expansions in capacity for tests, for example, getting hands on the chemicals needed to make the tests has continued to be a challenge.
Simon said that while a month ago, the idea of a universal basic income for everyone was seen as outlandish, it is not so much the case anymore. “It is not so crazy anymore if we can do it cutting through layers and layers of bureaucracy.” He said that studies have shown its costs more to process all the bureaucratic hurdles than it does for a certain amount of fraud to slip through the system.
He noted the governor has acted in the last week to expedite the ability of persons to get signed up for unemployment insurance with the removal of waiting periods, expanded eligibility and fewer restrictions. He noted that the number of applications for unemployment insurance in the last week alone in the state was more than the entire year to date. He said there are also new small business employer benefits.
Some key legislative changes passed in Richmond this session will also help, such as for an increase in the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, and to go up to $12.50 and then $15 after a couple years. There were key changes made to improve women’s health options and to ban discrimination for LGBTQ persons in housing, employment and other areas.
Del. Simon noted the ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court to pause all action on pending evictions and the ruling that sheriffs won’t execute eviction orders during the current crisis.
Palchik said that the Fairfax County board will be taking up legislation to enable and incentive the construction of so-called “granny flats,” or auxiliary dwelling units, on residential properties in the county, saying that with the current crisis, the demand for them as a form of affordable housing can be expected to go way up.