The homeless authority demands to increase the budget by 75%; Seattle Mayor Harrell says agency needs to prioritize needs
The King County Regional Homelessness Authority is asking funding partners for a budget increase of about 75% in 2023, seeking about an additional $90 million to make more than 400 new beds available and 130 new “safe spaces” for RVs.
In its first budget, for 2022, the agency received about $119 million from the City of Seattle and King County. In its second draft budget, the authority is asking for $209 million.
Regional Homelessness Authority CEO Marc Dones told reporters on Thursday that the abrupt request was “not ambitious”, but rather a serious request for a step on the road to the final resolution of homelessness in the region. .
“It’s about filling, or potentially filling, I should say, some pretty big gaps in the current architecture of the system,” Dones said, noting that the authority’s five-year plan with longer-term goals term would be released in September. “This is not a budget to end homelessness.”
In 2022, the majority of funding for the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, or KCRHA, came from the City of Seattle, which provided more than $69 million of the current budget. This year, the city faces an estimated $34 million shortfall, limiting the likelihood of a full raise, as Dones acknowledged Thursday.
“We live in a reality where there are a number of shortfalls with our financial partners. And to that end, I think it’s unreasonable to expect anything we offer to be funded,” Dones said.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said the city will continue to fund about 70% of KCRHA’s budget.
But he rejected the authority’s “wish list” approach, calling on the agency to focus on its priorities.
“I think because of the weather, they approached the budgeting process as ‘in a perfect world, that’s what I could do.’ That’s what I want.’ And I don’t think they articulated a clear expectation that they were even going to get it,” Harrell said. “And my comments to them were OK, we accept that for now. But at some point I need you to do the hard work of telling us exactly what you need .
At a meeting of the KCRHA implementation committee last week, Dones had already shared a loosely prioritized list of the most important budget requests: the highest priority items, according to Dones, are $15.4 million in salary increases for service providers; $5 million for up to 130 secure parking spaces for recreational vehicles; and $1.5 million to be awarded to organizations prioritizing hiring or focusing on people with “lived experience” of homelessness.
Second-tier items include $20 million to build a high-acuity shelter for up to 55 people in need of housing with higher levels of behavioral or other support, which have largely not been funded by the Seattle City Council last year, and $7.2 million for KCRHA to hire additional staff, bringing the agency closer to the original staffing model planned when it was created.
The costliest items at the bottom of Dones’ list include $15 million to improve or create additional day spaces for homeless people and $20 million for emergency housing.
But, Dones said Thursday that the list is not final.
“This thinking was generated internally by staff in response to the belief that we would be asked to do this type of prioritization both by the board and potentially by our funding partners,” Dones said. “I don’t want to go any further than that right now because I don’t have any new information,” and the city and county might eventually “come and say, here’s what the revenue is going to allow us to do. And then I will be able to make much better decisions.”
If funding agencies cut the proposed budget, Dones says they would rather see some new projects fully funded than see them all partially funded.
“The narrative around secure parking, for example, ‘the failure’ is because it hasn’t been fully funded in the past,” Dones said of past RV parking efforts. “So from my perspective, when we partially fund programs that are meant to serve people in this way, they end up not serving people well at all.”
“So my recommendation … will be to say we should fully fund things and not fund the ones we can’t,” Dones added.
A spokesperson for Harrell said Friday the mayor would “consider financial support for elements of the proposed KCRHA expansion where there is both political alignment and available funding” when drafting a draft. budget for city council to consider this fall, noting that it would be “balanced against other competing priorities and obligations of the city.
But at Tuesday’s press conference, Harrell called on the KCRHA to lower its priorities.
“It’s not a negotiation – you go high, I go low – because I want to be as supportive as possible,” Harrell said. “So they gave us a high number. There was a wish list in there. They fully understand that we are going to examine this figure and that we reserve the right to put on another hat. The hat now moves on to reviewing the city’s income and our boundaries, and then we’ll go out to make some decisions.