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Loan Sharks in the Water
Lawmakers crack down on predatory lending, although reform won’t happen for eight months.
The LoanMax on Mount Vernon Avenue in Arlandria is open for business during the pandemic, and colorful signs in the windows announce in English and Spanish that the car-title lender remains open during a stay-at-home order — offering loans at 200 percent annual interest during a time when unemployment claims in Alexandria are skyrocketing. Those kinds of interest rates will be illegal under the Fairness in Lending Act, which Gov. Ralph Northam signed last week after lawmakers signed off on some last-minute changes. But the ban on such high-interest lending won’t take effect until New Years Day 2021, which means high-interest lenders have eight months to engage in an unprecedented lending spree during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Recovering After Disaster
New approach allows disaster loans to become grants, avoiding glut of uncollected debt.
The Small Business Administration has issued more than $1 million in low-interest disaster loans in Alexandria since 1987, and most of those loans were never paid back in full, according to documents received through a public-records request. Now, with the economy in crisis, leaders at the federal officials are rolling out a new loan program that recipients won’t need to pay back in full if they keep their employees during the downturn. The move comes as businesses across Alexandria are trying to figure out how they are going to stay afloat now that Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered residents across Virginia to stay at home until June 10.
Restaurants, lawyers and consultants in Alexandria receive millions in forgivable loans.
Restaurants in Alexandria received the biggest chunk of federal cash from the Paycheck Protection Program, landing more than 200 forgivable loans and saving about 4,000 jobs, according to new data released from the Small Business Administration. Lawyers, consultants and home health care workers also scored big, landing hundreds of loans and saving thousands of jobs. Ultimately, businesses in Alexandria received more than 3,000 loans and preserved more than 35,000 jobs.
Alexandria delegation works with the governor to legalize marijuana on July 1.
Alexandria is about to become the capital of marijuana in Virginia. The city's legislative delegation is at the center of an effort poised to legalize weed this summer, years ahead of an agreement that was struck behind closed doors at the end of the General Assembly session in February.
Closing All the Loopholes
Democrats poised to impose new regulations on high-interest lenders.
The days of unregulated high-interest lending may be coming to a close in Virginia. Now that Democrats have seized control of the General Assembly, members of the Legislative Black Caucus say cracking down on predatory lending is one of their top priorities for the 2020 session.
Fossil Fuel Fiesta in Alexandria
Governor proposes gas-tax holiday, but will Virginians benefit?
Marijuana Is Now Legal
The long strange trip from a failed war on drugs to social equity licenses
Smoke 'em if you've got 'em because pot is now legal in the commonwealth of Virginia.
The Pandemic Election
Virginia voters support Biden, Warner and a new redistricting commission.
Twenty years ago, Virginia was a red state. Republicans scored Virginia's electoral votes in every presidential election since LBJ was reelected in 1964. Republicans held both U.S. Senate seats. The Grand Old Party had all the statewide offices, a majority of the congressional delegation and both chambers of the General Assembly. That was the environment when Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, ran for governor and lieutenant governor.
Big Money for Big Biz, Not as Much for Poor
Lawmakers go on a spending spree with billions of dollars from Uncle Sam.
Big business cleaned up this week, taking home the biggest prizes in the special session to spend $3 billion in stimulus cash. Meanwhile, low-income Virginians didn't fare quite as well.
Living in the Dark
Could you survive without your iPhone? Do you have an evacuation kit? Are you really prepared for the worst?
Seven Republicans Running for Governor
May 8 convention to determine direction of party heading into November.
Republicans haven’t won a statewide race since 2009, when Attorney General Bob McDonnell received 59 percent of the vote against Democrat Creigh Deeds. Since then, Republicans have been shut out of the Executive Mansion. Ken Cuccinelli lost to Terry McAuliffe in 2013, and Ed Gillespie lost to Ralph Northam in 2017. Now Republicans are about to determine their statewide candidates in a May 8 convention, which will take place at 37 locations.
Financing the Rampage
Economic toll of gun violence is more than $14 billion a year for Virginia.
All those school security measures to harden your local elementary school add up. So do trips to the emergency room and the multiple surgeries needed to address gunshot wounds. While the human tragedy of gun violence often grabs headlines, the economic toll continues to mount with each mass shooting. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, the annual cost to Virginia is more than $14 billion a year.
Dieting Sisters in Virginia
From road diets to balancing the books, Alexandria and Norton compare notes.
Businesses notify state officials of 5,000 layoffs in Northern Virginia.
Businesses across Northern Virginia are flooding the Virginia Economic Commission with thousands of layoff notifications, an indication of how deep the region’s economic uncertainty is becoming as the COVID-19 crisis continues its devastating path. Since the beginning of March, the commission has received notification of about 5,000 layoffs in Northern Virginia. That’s more layoffs in one part of the state than all the other regions in Virginia combined.
Why a Regional Wage in Virginia?
Effort to raise minimum wage hits snag on Senate floor, leading to regional approach.
It’s shortly after 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night, and state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36) is working the Senate chamber to save the minimum wage increase. This particular Tuesday isn’t just any day of the week. It’s the final deadline for Senate bills to cross over to the House, so the pressure is building as the clock winds down. Senators are tired and cranky, and they will be working past midnight.
City Council candidates campaign on fixing Alexandria's flooding problem.
None of the candidates for Alexandria City Council are for flooding, which has swamped the city's aging infrastructure in recent years as a series of major storm events have repeatedly submerged parts of Alexandria.
At the Crossroads
Lawmakers to slash the state budget and consider criminal-justice reforms.
The threadbare Franklin and Armfield office on Duke Street stands at the crossroads between racial injustice and economic crisis. It’s a ramshackle building now, but it was once the headquarters for the largest domestic slave trading firm in the United States, present at the creation of the systemic racism that plagues Virginia cops and courts. It’s also the city’s latest acquisition, and the state budget was to include $2.5 million to help transform it into the Freedom House Museum. But then the pandemic hit, and the governor hit the pause button on that line item as well as all the other spending priorities of the new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.
Banks to the Rescue
Small businesses wait for banks to get federal money from the Paycheck Protection Program.
Like many business owners across Northern Virginia, Cyrille Brenac is still waiting to hear back from his bank about his application to the Paycheck Protection Program. That’s the $350 billion program that was part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus law designed to offer money to small businesses who can demonstrate they are keeping their employees. For Brenac, who lives in the Cherrydale neighborhood of Arlington, the money would help him rehire about 50 employees of his two French restaurants he laid off when the economy abruptly shut down as the result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.