Mayor Jenny A. Durkan Monday denounced a proposed plan by City Council that would cut $6.3 million funding they had approved for critical programs that provide nutrition assistance, child care for struggling families, and nursing care for low-income pregnant women. Despite previous approval by City Council as part of last year’s budget, City Council’s plan would raid funding committed to these programs without identifying the millions in other funds needed to continue these critical safety net services.
“I am disappointed that City Council is preparing to cut millions of funding for services that support our most vulnerable neighbors. Despite Council previously approving this plan by an 8-1 vote, this irresponsible step would put families in jeopardy by cutting childcare vouchers and food banks. It would undo years of work from community based organizations to ensure all our neighbors have health care, nutritious food choices and child care,” said Mayor Durkan. “Because this would either cut critical programs or run an illegal budget deficit, I will veto this ill-conceived bill.”
Council Bills 119402 and 119551 would change the Short-term Rental Tax (STR) and Sweetened Beverage Tax (SBT) revenues by preventing the City from using those revenues to support existing programs and instead dedicate the revenue to new program spending.
If the current proposal is passed, the legislation would eliminate funding for the following City-supported programs:
- Fresh Bucks: More than 750 households would lose access to Fresh Bucks vouchers, which constitutes a $480/month benefit for food insecure households.
- Food Banks: Reduction of 96,341 food bank visits and 11,201,010 pounds of food distributed
- Senior Meals: 548 older adults in Seattle will not receive home delivered meals and 2,601 seniors in Seattle will not receive congregate nutrition services.
- Children’s Nutrition: 178 children would not be served in the farm to table Program and 720 meals would not be served to students during out of school time.
- Child Care Assistance Program: Providing child care for over 1,200 children in 2020, CCAP helps families who would not be able to cover the high cost of care in the City.
- Parent Child Home Program: This year, 251 children have been visited through the research based Parent Child Home Program, which is helping to build school readiness.
- Nurse Family Partnership: This funding supports a team of 16 Public Health nurses who serve 450 low-income women who are pregnant with their first child. The Public Health nurses also support first time mothers from prenatal to toddler age.
At the same time, because the City’s revenue forecast continues to show little new revenue in coming years, the Council has failed to identify other areas for funding reductions. The City’s Budget Director, Ben Noble, outlined these concerns in a June 26 note to Council, writing that “the policy proposals imbedded in Council Bills 119402 and 119551 are only half measures” that could “redirect funding without answering the question of what must be cut to make this redirection possible.”
As part of last fall’s budget process, Council approved funding appropriations for 2019 and 2020 that including using $9.4 million to support education, health care and child care. With these resources and an additional reallocation of REET revenues, the City expanded its ongoing investments in homelessness services. The Mayor proposed, and Council approved 8-1, this budget approach to address the crisis.