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caption: Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan speaks to the press at a mass Covid-19 vaccination site set to open on Saturday on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, inside the Lumen Field Events Center in Seattle. The site will be the largest civilian-led vaccination site in the country.
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Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan speaks to the press at a mass Covid-19 vaccination site set to open on Saturday on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, inside the Lumen Field Events Center in Seattle. The site will be the largest civilian-led vaccination site in the country.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Durkan's 2022 budget addresses affordable housing, Seattle Police staffing

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has submitted her proposed budget for 2022, the last of her administration.

Highlights: More than $50 million for affordable housing, $115 million for services addressing homelessness, and funding to increase staffing in the Seattle Police Department.

Durkan's budget acknowledges that the Covid-19 pandemic still remains a "dominant influence" on national and local economies, with Seattle being no exception.

Read the budget proposal here.

Recovery remains uneven in many industries, especially in the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

As in 2020 and in 2021, this year's budget proposal includes support from the federal government in addressing the costs of Covid related expenditures like mass testing and vaccinations.

Under the proposal, Seattle will use the $116 million provided by the federal government for Covid assistance that has a "longer-term perspective" that will provide a platform for a "more equitable recovery."

Durkan spoke with KUOW's Angela King on Tuesday.

Asked what she is specifically proposing in this budget to address equity, she says, "Some of our bigger program really are equity programs."

Durkan holds up Seattle Promise as an example. That program provides up to two years of free college tuition at North Seattle College, Seattle Central College or South Seattle College. All Seattle Public Schools graduates are eligible regardless of their grades, income, ability or country of birth.

She says Seattle Promise is part of a broader plan to train students for jobs that can keep up with the changing economy and the cost of living.

"Of those kids, we don't know how many will actually go to college, but predominantly, they're kids of color," she says, adding about 30 percent are first-generation college students. "We have to build those bridges, from this economy to the economy of the future. ... If we don't bridge those gaps, we will fall further and further behind."

Affordable housing and homelessness

More than $50 million of the city's Covid relief funding will be put toward building or purchasing affordable housing in Seattle.

Durkan calls on lawmakers in Olympia and Washington D.C. to invest in affordable housing, too -- in the city, the state, the region and the nation.

Calling access to affordable housing "the greatest challenge facing the city" Mayor Durkan's proposal suggests the increased investment will also generate jobs and provide more housing options for those currently in the shelter system.

In addition to allocating funds for affordable housing, the proposed budget includes investments to sustain shelters that were established in response to the pandemic. The $115 million allocated for services for those experiencing homelessness will fund emergency shelters, case management, day centers, and homelessness prevention programs.

Asked why there's so much money for shelters -- a temporary solution -- Durkan argues the city still needs that short-term bridge to get people into permanent housing.

"Every dollar we spend on shelter is a dollar we're not spending on housing," she acknowledges.

She sees the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority as critical to finding a regional solution -- so critical that she wants a large chunk of the money to go to that office.

"We can't have a regional authority and hold back our part," she says.

Community Safety

The 2022 budget also expands investments in the Seattle Fire Department, along with the Seattle Police Department and Human Services Department.

Acknowledging the number of resignations and retirements among staff members over the past two years, under the proposed 2022 budget, Seattle Police would receive funding to hire 35 new officers, increasing the average officer count to 1,230 uniformed staff members.

The budget also includes funding to provide financial incentives for new recruits and transfers from other departments.

The Seattle City Council recently rejected a similar proposed. So, why would the Council members sign off this time? Durkan says they will, as a part of a "holistic package."

"I'm hoping that they acknowledge that, right now, we don't have enough police officers in Seattle and we have not built up the alternatives that we need, particularly in the area of crisis interventions," she says. "Trust comes when you have both systems up and running, working together and connected to the community."

Approximately $2 million has been allocated for the Seattle Fire Department's "Triage Team," which is currently under development. After its launched, the team will respond to calls 911 dispatch centers identify as non-medical and non-criminal.

Also in the 2022 Proposed Budget:

  • $10.4 million in funding to continue the Clean Cities Initiative through Aug. 2022 to tackle littering, graffiti and needle disposal.
  • $400,000 to address increasing incidents of hate crimes.
  • $14 million to implement Green New Deal strategies, like conversions from oil-heat to electric heat.
  • $231 million for the Seattle Department of Transportation's 2022-2027 Capital Improvement Plan