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Budget Committee Votes to Amend City’s $6.5B Budget

Investments in Housing, Homelessness and LEAD top the list

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia) and Chair of the Select Budget Committee issued the following statement at the conclusion of the final committee meeting today.  The Council package was approved by members of the Budget Committee, who will vote on the final version in Full Council on Monday (November 25th) at 2:00 p.m. in Council Chambers.

“In my second and final year serving as Budget Chair, I worked closely with my Council colleagues to create a balanced budget reflecting our collective commitment to address issues that matter most to people in our city.  Along with the Mayor and with our regional partners, this budget invests in systemic solutions for homelessness, housing, hygiene and coordinated criminal justice reform. While we were thoughtful in our deliberations, we made some tough choices.”

Selected highlights from the 2020 budget include:

Homelessness – Council approved several investments to respond to the homelessness emergency and serve specific populations who disproportionately become homeless. These investments demonstrate the Council’s commitment to a budget that prioritizes addressing the emergency, and focused on programs that have proven results, but lack the funding to address the full scope of the problem. For example:

  • Recognizing the lack of emergency shelter for people living on the street, the Council added $2M to increase the number of tiny home villages and 24/7 shelters by as many as 100 beds;
  • Redirected $158,000 from the Mayor’s safe parking lot program, which only supports parking spaces at faith-based institutions, to open an overnight-only safe parking lot at University Heights Center;
  • $210,000 for homeless outreach services to people experiencing homelessness in North Seattle; 
  • $1M to increase homeless services for Native Americans who experience homelessness; and, 
  • $750,000 for a rental assistance pilot for individuals age 50 or older who have income limited to federal disability benefits and are at risk of or are currently experiencing homelessness.

Housing – The Council re-enforced the Mayor’s vision and added more money to fast-track affordable housing:

  • The Mayor’s 2020 Proposed Budget allocated $41.7M of those monies into a strategic investment fund that will focus on sites and projects with the potential to achieve multiple community benefits such as housing, open space, child care facilities, affordable commercial space through mixed-use and mixed-income development over the longer term.  While the Council shared the Mayor’s priorities, a portion of the money from this and other programs funded with the Mercer Mega Block sale will be directed to Office of Housing projects that are ‘shovel ready’.
  • $250,000 to support the development of affordable housing projects in Little Saigon and the Central District.
  • Council also put a proviso on the $2.5M Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Loan Program to ensure the program complies with the City’s Race & Social Justice Initiative (RSJI).

Hygiene – Recognizing the community’s concerns around a safe and clean city, Council supported hygiene access for people experiencing homelessness. To address this, the Council’s budget includes:

  • $1.2M for five staffed, mobile bathrooms, which include handwashing stations, a needle exchange and pet waste disposal
  • $244,000 to expand the provision of shower services for homeless individuals at two Seattle Parks and Recreation community centers
  • $115,000 to expand the encampment trash pickup program 

Criminal Justice Reform – Investing in strategies that work: Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) LEAD is a proven model for improving individual health and public safety. Instead of booking people into jail, the program is designed to address problems at the root cause by diverting substance drug users, sex workers and people with behavioral health needs to social services to address their underlying issues. We know what works, but the program is at capacity.

Police officers, judges, and prosecutors recognize this program works too, and they want to refer more people.   Expansion has been difficult because the number of case managers and dedicated housing are severely limited. LEAD is a nationally-recognized strategy that works to reduce recidivism and improve public safety. 

Councilmembers also enacted several provisos requiring data on justice reform proposals including the proposed Case Conference pilot, rapid re-entry connector pilot, high-barrier individual probation program, and requiring more 24/7 shelter options for people who want to enter the program.  By putting in statements of legislative intent, or SLIs, asking various departments and organizations to provide data, Council will be able to measure success and determine how those pilot programs are faring. With that in mind Councilmembers voted to support:

  • $3.5M toward LEAD from the City plus $1.5M from the Balmer Group, LEAD will be able to add 54 new case managers and expand the program capacity to handle up to 1,400 clients
  • Continue requiring reports on the number of people contacted and outcomes of the Navigation Team

Other notable investments added by the Council:

  • $124,000 for sex industry workers diversion program, and $140,000 to HSD for outreach program for sex workers
  • $500,000 to replace Fire Station 31
  • A paralegal position for domestic violence firearm enforcement unit 
  • $600,000 to increase the size of a new recruitment class in the Fire Departmentto augment by nine slots 
  • $47,000 of funding to upgrade the Mayor’s Native American Liaison to include specialized research in Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) cases that might have been misclassified within Seattle Police Department
  • $87,000 to an organization such as the Seattle Indian Health Board to advise the City on steps that should be taken to address the MMIWG crisis
  • $300,000 to support implementation of the Transportation Equity Agenda

Additional highlights:

  • Community Improvements funded by the Sweetened Beverage Tax (SBT):
    • $735,000 to provide micro-grants to food banks, meal program sites, and home childcare programs for kitchen equipment and supplies, such as refrigerators, commercial grade ovens and other appliances, to help them provide fresh food options;
    • $225,000 for an additional 450 Fresh Bucks vouchers, which received a $2M SBT ongoing increase in the 2020 Proposed Budget. This allows the City to offer a total of 6,450 vouchers to both SNAP-eligible residents and those in the “food security gap” (i.e., people who experience food insecurity but do not qualify for other food assistance programs);
    • $100,000 to provide grants to community-based organizations that work to provide diapers to families of diaper-aged children for whom a lack of access to diapers presents a barrier to using and accessing childcare services, or for families who access diapers via food banks, shelters, enhanced shelters, and tiny home villages;
    • $440,000 for installation of water bottle filling stations at community centers and Seattle Public Schools to encourage youth to drink more water, prioritizing neighborhoods with higher proportions of low-income households and people of color; and, $75,000 for consultant services to assess scratch cooking infrastructure at Seattle Public Schools (SPS). SPS Nutrition Services does not currently have the capability to prepare food from scratch, which would improve the freshness, quality, variety, and taste of school food. An assessment of operational and renovation requirements to transition to scratch cooking will provide SPS with recommendations and cost estimates to implement this change; and, 
    • $375,000 to evaluate how the City can facilitate connecting families with childcare providers and develop strategies and models based on best, promising, or emerging practices to address the lack of affordable and accessible childcare for infant and toddler care (0-3 years of age) from other jurisdictions.

  • $15,000 ongoing funding each for three celebratory events: Indigenous People’s Day, Human Rights Day and MLK Jr. Unity Day 
  • A new funded position towards a strategic advisor position at the Office of Sustainability and Environment to support Green New Deal Oversight Board 

“These being my final days in office and my last term serving as Budget Committee Chair, I want to thank Mayor Jenny Durkan, Budget Director Ben Noble, each member of our Central staff, analysts, clerks, aides, attorneys and the public, who worked tirelessly to balance a budget that improves conditions for all the people of our City. It has been my honor to lead this process.”

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Please NOTE:  The Council began the deliberative budget process in response to the budget Mayor Durkan transmitted on September 23.  By law, the Council is required to pass a balanced budget by November 25. A complete calendar is available ONLINE.

Updated 11/20/2019 at 9:27 a.m.

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