by Elizabeth Turnbull
Following consecutive protests last year and the creation of a task force, Mayor Jenny Durkan transmitted legislation to the Seattle City Council on July 13 outlining $30 million in investments for BIPOC communities.
Overall, the money is intended to work against disparities caused by racist and governmental policies that have disproportionately affected BIPOC communities, according to a statement by the City.
The Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force (ECITF) — made up of 26 members and convened by the mayor last fall — has outlined different strategies and pockets of investments for the funds, which the Council will review. A vote is set for July 20.
Although the mayor initially committed to a $100 million investment, which the ECITF would oversee, this number has since shrunk to $30 million after the Council designated roughly $70 million for other processes.
Currently, the task force’s recommendations for the funds revolve around four categories of investment — business, education, health, and housing. The legislation also consists of nine recommendations for investments that include programs for formerly incarcerated BIPOC youth, an equity education innovation fund, food access and environmental justice, and culturally responsive and inclusive healthcare, among others.
The ECITF had previously come under scrutiny from some activists and members of the Black community for being hand picked by the mayor rather than selected by members of BIPOC communities.
Other community members, while excited at the idea of an investment, are concerned that the funds are spread too thin to contribute to real structures that disrupt long-standing inequalities.
“I do think this is definitely the right direction. I am excited about this kind of investment being poured into the BIPOC community,” Dominique Davis, the founder of the non-profit Community Passageways, told the Emerald. “… But you have to understand that in order to build long-lasting, sustainable change in the BIPOC community that has been oppressed for [hundreds of] years, it’s going to take an investment that is targeted into building up institutions with a high level of funding and support in a very focused and targeted way.”
As of current task force recommendations, $7.5 million will go toward small businesses, $7.5 million to education, $6.2 million to health, and $8.8 million to housing. In the businesses category, $5 million will go toward grants and subsidized loans for small businesses, while $2.5 million will go to consultant support for small businesses.
The majority of the funds designated to education, $4 million, will go toward a variety of teacher and student programs with an emphasis on providing for Youth of Color, while $2 million will go toward cultural programs for Youth of Color and $1.5 million will fund programs for youth involved in the criminal legal system.
In the health category, smaller sums will go toward providing healthy foods to Youth and Communities of Color and environmental justice grants. In addition, $1.5 million of this money will go toward healing programs, $1 million will go toward helping residents and Communities of Color secure health care, $1.7 million will go toward helping residents of color enter into health care careers, and $500,00 will go toward health care mentorships.
Of the $8.8 million set aside for housing, the greatest sum, $4.6 million, is allocated to subsidized home ownership projects, $1 million to City contracting help for construction businesses owned by people historically marginalized by racism and/or sexism, and $1.8 million to wealth-building education for residents and business owners of color.
The remaining $1.4 million for housing is divided into $875,000 to help homeowners to maintain their properties, $250,000 to study on lease-to-own programs, and another $250,000 for consultant work on housing for union apprentices.
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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