‘Trauma-informed, community well-being’ investments are critical in a Shadow Pandemic’
SEATTLE, WA – Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle and South Park), Chair of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee, supports $128.4 million in federal recovery funds to aid Seattle’s recovery from the pandemic and COVID-related economic impacts, especially those dedicated to trauma-informed, community well-being services in the Seattle Rescue Plan.
Said Herbold, “Families are struggling to meet the basic needs of their children and keep food on the table. Survivors of violence have been cut off from their network of support and crisis services. A year of isolation and insecurity has taken its toll on the mental health of us all. This is the ‘Shadow Pandemic,’ with restricted movement, social isolation, and economic insecurity increasing our vulnerability to violence and self-harm.”
The proposed “Seattle Rescue Plan” (Council Bill 120093 and 120094) was discussed during today’s meeting of the Council’s Finance and Housing Committee. The Plan supports investment in distinct categories, and includes but is not limited to the following selected highlights:
- $1.5 million to address senior isolation and other impacts of the pandemic on older residents, as part of a $7.4 million investment in seniors expected from the state later this summer. Loneliness and social isolation bring increased risk for chronic health problems including dementia (64% increase), stroke (32% increase), and coronary artery disease (29% increase). Social isolation has also been linked to increases in emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and nursing home placements. A survey of 897 older people sheltering at home during the pandemic found that the prevalence of elder abuse was approximately one of five—an 83.6% increase compared with prevalence estimates before the pandemic.
- $600,000 for investments in mental health and behavioral health services for individuals, youth, and families. It has been said that “COVID has been like gasoline poured on an already raging fire.” Depression rates have tripled. At the end of 2020, Public Health recorded 42 overdose deaths in a two-week period, the highest number ever documented in King County. Research indicates a record 1 in 4 people under 30 seriously contemplated taking their own lives during COVID.
- $600,000 for programs and services for gender-based violence response services. An April 2020 survey of local organizations addressing gender-based violence showed 56% experienced an increase in the numbers of survivors seeking help, with the severity and complexity of survivors’ needs increasing. The number of sexual assault survivors requesting help in Seattle has jumped 25% in the past year, and requests for legal advocacy have jumped 33%. Meanwhile, federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding that supports these services has been cut.
- $225,000 for diaper distribution to address soaring diaper need. Diaper need is even more closely linked to depression in new moms than hunger. Diapers cost $80 to $100 per month, and 16% of Seattle families struggle to afford them overall, including 42% of BIPOC families. Federal assistance programs like SNAP and WIC don’t cover them. The National Diaper Bank Network reports an 86% increase in the number of diapers distributed to children and families during the pandemic, and they projected that nearly 40% more children are being served by their diaper banks.
- $690,000 to support restaurants preparing free meals to those in need, while supporting local farms and producers and building long-term local supply chain relationships. Food insecurity has more than doubled during the pandemic; 30% of King County households experienced hunger in the past year, and the impact is even larger among communities of color.
The Rescue Plan also includes $25 million in direct cash assistance prioritized for those disproportionately impacted by the COVID public health crisis. Families and individuals struggling to survive know best how to put cash assistance to use to get through the end of the pandemic.
“We must make these critical investments in services that will directly help the families and individuals hit hardest by COVID, so that not just the City but also its residents can build back better,” says Herbold.