by Elizabeth Turnbull
Following a year of economic difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the mayor and some Seattle City Council members have proposed that more than $100 million in federal recovery funds be designated toward critical areas of the local economy such as addressing houselessness and helping businesses recover.
The proposal, called the Seattle Rescue Plan, was released late last month by Mayor Jenny Durkan, Council President M. Lorena González, and Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda. It designates $128.4 million to focus on “homelessness, small businesses, direct assistance to workers and families, community health and equity” and the Council could vote on the measure as early as June 21.
$49.2 million is set to go toward the housing and homelessness category, which would create new shelter options and invest in permanent affordable housing, according to the City.
A similar amount of the funds, $41.5 million, is dedicated to “community well-being.” Of these funds, $25 million would go toward direct cash assistance to individuals, while other funds would be dedicated to restoring the Seattle Public Library’s operating hours, childcare, and other sub-categories.
The next big chunk of money, $23 million, is designated for “community and small business recovery” with almost all — $22 million — going to downtown recovery grants. Only a small portion would be used for sub-categories such as retraining, apprenticeships, and youth employment internships.
Councilmember Mosqueda has indicated that the grants for small businesses may go toward communities of color and those most impacted by the pandemic, according to Seattle Times reporting.
The proposal also designates $7.6 million to the “reopening City programs and services” category, of which $6 million is targeted at upgrading technology needed for teleworking and on-site work, while $1.6 million would support workers who are returning to City facilities visited by the public.
Lastly, a small amount of the money, $7 million, would go toward the “community assistance and programming” category. A portion of these funds would make permanent 20 of the 26 miles of Stay Health Streets closed to cars and opened to pedestrians during the pandemic. In addition, this money would go toward scholarships for child care services, greater maintenance at parks and community centers, and other enhancements to community spaces.
The Seattle Rescue Plan gets most of its funding from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that President Biden signed in March.
While it is yet to be seen how much support the proposal will draw from the full City Council, the measure has already received criticism from others in City politics.
Former City Council President and current Mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell released a statement in response to the proposal, stating that the majority of the funds should be dedicated to providing emergency housing services and support for city residents without houses and that the plan does not currently designate enough money to this cause.
Regardless of how Harrell and Durkan’s approaches to the housing crisis differ, organizations continue to work to create affordable housing in the Central District and South End. On May 15, the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda) and Community Roots Housing (CRH) closed on the construction financing for Yesler Family Housing, which will provide affordable housing on East Yesler Way and 13th Avenue.
Four days later, the project broke ground and construction workers began construction on a building that will contain 156 units of affordable apartments in addition to space for childcare, community gardens, common areas for gatherings and 2,500 square‐feet of retail space that will be reserved for community‐based businesses in the Central District.
To qualify to live in the building, residents must have incomes between 30% and 60% of the Area Median Income. In addition to support from SCIDpda and CRH, the project is being funded by the the City of Seattle, Seattle Housing Authority, Capital One, and JPMorgan Chase.
The project is set to be completed in early 2023 and those who worked to build it hope that it makes a difference for people looking for affordable housing.
“We are excited to break ground on a project that will foster a community of families near transit, jobs, healthcare, education, and cultural amenities in an area where many of the surrounding neighborhoods have been designated as high risk of displacement and high access to opportunity,” said Maiko Winkler‐Chin, executive director at SCIDpda.
Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.
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