Lawmakers Propose Homeless Worker Stipend; Harrell’s State of the City Previews Potential Budget Battle

1. To support homeless service providers struggling with staffing shortages, Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-34, White Center) and Rep. Nicole Macri (D-43, Seattle) are hoping to add $78 million to the state budget to provide $2,000 stipends to thousands of homeless service workers across the state. The program would start in October.

Washington Low Income Housing Alliance policy and advocacy director Michele Thomas said many homeless service workers earn such low wages, “they are one step away from homelessness themselves.” Nonprofits that provide services and shelter to people experiencing homelessness are perennially underfunded, and often have trouble recruiting and retaining staff.

“Our permanent supportive housing providers and our homeless service providers are saying they’re literally competing with fast-food employers and their workers are leaving because [fast food jobs have] similar benefits, similar pay, and a lot less trauma,” Thomas said.

Nguyen said “we as a government have failed” because the state is relying on nonprofit homeless service providers and their underpaid workforce “to do the work that government should have been doing.”

In the House, 27 representatives, including half a dozen from Seattle, signed a letter urging the Appropriations Committee to include the request in the 2022 operating budget. Nguyen said the budget request has support in the senate as well, although he adds that “$78 million is a lot” to ask when there are so many competing budget priorities.

The House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee will release their 2022 operating budgets next week.

2. In his first  State of the City Address Tuesday, Mayor Bruce Harrell reiterated his commitment to hiring more police officers and removing more homeless encampments from public spaces; described work to consolidate various systems for reporting encampments and tracking outreach and services to homeless people; and promised to be “the administration that ends the federal consent decree over SPD.” The consent decree is a 10-year-old agreement giving the US Justice Department oversight of SPD’s efforts to correct patterns of excessive force and racially biased policing. “The time to build this [police] department is now,” Harrell said.

As he has during the first month and a half of his term, Harrell emphasized the need to address public disorder that, he said, is destroying small businesses or driving them out of Seattle.

“The truth is, the status quo is unacceptable—that is the one where we must all agree,” Harrell said.

Harrell teased a “major announcement” that will happen later this week on homelessness; as we reported last week, this announcement will include a large, one-time philanthropic donation to fund a “peer navigator” program within the King County Regional Homelessness Authority. Peer navigators are case managers with lived experience who connect people to shelter, health care, and other services; the city, which provides most of the authority’s funding declined to fund a $7.6 million peer navigator pilot last year.

“Yesterday we received some good news, learning that revenue from the JumpStart Payroll Expense Tax has come in $31 million higher than expected,” Harrell said. “That additional revenue must go toward alleviating the budget issues we expect in 2023.”

In a preview of a potential budget battle later this year, Harrell said the city is facing a $150 million revenue shortfall that he plans to fill with revenues from the JumpStart payroll tax, which is earmarked for housing, small businesses, and Green New Deal programs. Former mayor Jenny Durkan attempted repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, to use revenues from the tax (which she opposed), to fund her own budget priorities. She also tried to pass legislation that would allow the city to use JumpStart revenues for virtually any purpose, effectively overturning the adopted spending plan.

“Yesterday we received some good news, learning that revenue from the JumpStart Payroll Expense Tax has come in $31 million higher than expected,” Harrell said. “That additional revenue must go toward alleviating the budget issues we expect in 2023.”

For two years, the revenues from the payroll tax have largely gone into COVID relief. Council budget chair Teresa Mosqueda, who sponsored the tax, told PubliCola, “We have a codified JumpStart spend plan in law for a reason. … It should also be noted that were it not for JumpStart in 2020, we would have faced an austerity budget. In 2022 and beyond, funding is dedicated to the areas noted in the codified spend plan which will create a more resilient and equitable economy.”

Asked if the mayor plans to use JumpStart revenues to backfill the general fund shortfall this year, Harrell spokesman Jamie Housen said, “The Mayor’s Office has been regularly engaging with [Councilmember] Mosqueda on budget issues and are looking forward to working with her and Councilmembers regarding how to allocate the new revenues just identified yesterday.”

Mosqueda said the city should consider new revenue sources to make the city budget sustainable, rather than using payroll tax revenues to fill holes in the budget. “We have to remember, while Jumpstart first revenue returns are in, our commitments to the community members who supported the Jumpstart tax and the detailed spend plan have yet to be realized,” she said. Harrell mentioned the possibility of new taxes in his speech, saying the city would “need to look at all our options, deciding between one-time and ongoing commitments, adjusting expenditures, revisiting existing funding sources, and looking at options for increasing revenues.”

—Leo Brine, Erica C. Barnett

15 thoughts on “Lawmakers Propose Homeless Worker Stipend; Harrell’s State of the City Previews Potential Budget Battle”

  1. C_Kathes: Three quick facts to correct your fake news: 1. The City of Olympia (Progressive) just dumped their homeless from the Deschutes Parkway Capitol Lake encampment onto the City of Lacey (temporarily moved them into a Lacey hotel without prior notification). Stop bullshitting us about “how American”. 2. The lack of affordable housing does not cause homelessness. You seem to have missed the previous posts about this subject. Please get yourself up to speed. Homeless persons cannot even afford Puyallup prices. Do you actually think your Progressive policies will bring rents down to where the homeless can afford Seattle? 3. The South Sound begins at the narrows, by definition. Look it up on Wikipedia or anywhere else. Three big lies in the same post. Don’t blame me. I am not the one who makes you wrong. Steve Willie.

  2. Some facts now: 1. The majority of homeless persons in Seattle could have contributed something of value to Seattle, except they won’t because getting Seattle’s free stuff is easier than getting a job. 2. The majority of homeless in Seattle are not originally from Seattle. They came here for the free stuff. 3. The majority of homeless in Seattle are (or were) substance abusers, which was/is a major factor in causing or extending their homelessness. 4. Illegal drugs cause psychosis and eventually cause permanent mental damage, which means that some of the mental issues responsible for homelessness are actually caused by the drugs. 5. The drugs are currently pouring across Joe Biden’s wide-open southern border (Chinese-Sinaloa Fentanyl and others). Congratulations, you voted for this. 6. The high cost of housing is no excuse. I moved and so can you. Even if rent was a million dollars a day, the smart people would just move to Idaho, Texas, South Sound (it’s easy). At that point, the cause of homelessness would be stupidity (for not moving when you should have). 7. Your silly attempts at criminal reform (defund, lifestyle crimes, etc.) have resulted in an increase in crime, just as the smart people predicted. Seattle residents who support all of this are now getting what they deserve. Let’s have some more of that! HA HA.

    1. 1 is so argumentative as to be laughable. Do you have a single study or statistical report to back your claim up?

      2 and 3 are factually incorrect. You could weasel your way into arguing 2 by ignoring the historical trend that was centralizing King County homeless services in Seattle for ease of delivery and discounting the homeless from King County. But they are still local. Point 3 has no such saving grace. The statistics are less than a third, not over half.

      4 is highly dependent on the drug and length of use, and is beside the point. Nobody deserves living on the street regardless of their decisions or life choices, and the street as well as neighborhood are better with everyone housed.

      5 Is argumentative at best, and political grandstanding. Opiates enter our local drug markets from Vancouver BC, not from Mexico. And Biden’s border isn’t significantly more porous than Trump’s was.

      6. The South Sound is no cheaper than Seattle. 1 bedroom studios rent for over 1k per month in Seatac.

      7. Quite the opposite, really. It is a lack of serious social services improvements that are the root cause. This goes hand in hand with studies on broken windows policing. A lack of money in the local population of an area leads to crime. The homeless have no money. Criminal reform has literally nothing to do with it. It’s pure economics.

      1. A Joy: I correctly anticipated your responses and had already posted the video below, shredding all your statements in advance….except for #5 and #6. So #5: Two million illegal immigrants and drug carriers just walked across the wide-open southern border last year. For you to claim that the borders are the same under Biden and Trump is an obvious blunder on your part. #6: Apparently you think that Seatac is located in South Sound. I am so embarrassed for you. You no longer qualify for any responses from me.

      2. You’re right about lack of money having something to do with crime, but lack of money for what? Are catalytic converters being stolen to pay for food and shelter, or for drugs? If we implement something like Andrew Yang’s basic income support how will the homeless spend their monthly payment? Some experimental income support programs in other places show that most people spend their money on shelter, but the Seattle homeless problem isn’t just about people being evicted for nonpayment of rent. It is also about drug addiction and mental illness. Unfortunately, too many people try to simplify the problem as having a single cause.

    2. I saw your video. To say it failed to prove your point is an understatement.

      Seatac *is* in the South Sound. Puget Sound is 100 miles long, from Deception Pass to Olympia. Seatac is less than 50 miles due north of Olympia. Geography backs up my statement.

      As for border crossings, migration analysts have reported a marked increase in recidivism in 2021. Which is to say the same individual is being counted multiple times a day in that 2 million number. Which even a little bit of research would have told you.

      1. A Joy: The South Sound has nothing to do with Deception Pass. The south sound begins at Tacoma Narrows. Try doing some actual research before spewing total bullshit next time. Perhaps your knowledge of Western Washington Geography is the same as your knowledge about the homeless problem in Seattle…. virtually non-existent.

      2. A Joy: The illegal immigrants cannot possibly be crossing the same border twice because they are not even being sent back. They are getting free rides to the US communities of their choice. What planet do you live on? Go ahead and stay in your little bubble of fairies and unicorns. You are much more entertaining that way.

    3. Charlie, less than a third of Seattle’s homeless are drug users, and rates of mental illness are less than twice the local/national average. Most of that increase is due to PTSD caused by being homeless. The tired line that the Seattle homeless problem isn’t is also about drug addiction and mental illness is a tired myth pushed by people who simply want the homeless to disappear rather than doing something about the issue. In the end they only make the problem worse. The homeless are not stealing catalytic converters.

  3. Erica: The woman in this video knows the truth about the homeless in Seattle: – I apologize in advance for the truth. This is going to destroy your Progressive logic so all you snowflakes get to your safe spaces.


      1. I appreciate Andrea’s work and perspective; she identifies some problematic aspects of the city’s current approach but she doesn’t really specify anything substantive that the city should do differently (at least not anything that the city itself actually has the power and resources to do). Yes, many of Seattle’s chronically homeless came here from elsewhere, a good number of them — as she notes — deliberately steered in our direction by more conservative cities as a way to offload their responsibilities onto someone else. (How very American of them!) That doesn’t negate Seattle’s obligations to try to deal with the resulting challenges in a humane and effective way to the extent it can. Of course there’s always room for improvement in how this is being done. But at the end of the day the lack of accessible and affordable housing is a nationwide problem that only the federal government has the power to truly solve. I don’t see what “logic,” Progressive or otherwise, is being “destroyed” here.

        (Btw, if you’re really a Seattleite you should know that “South Sound” is widely and colloquially used to mean the entire metro area south of Seattle city limits — including, yes, Seatac. To insist on a precise geographic definition seems to me, even if technically correct, a bit churlish.)

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