Reflections on a rousing 2015 Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day!

2015 advocacy express advertizing photo On February 17, 2015, 650 of our closest friends and allies from all across the state of Washington gathered in Olympia at Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day to speak up for affordable housing and an end to homelessness.

Driven by an enthusiastic and cheerful bus driver, we headed to Olympia at 7:15 a.m. with 30 Coalition members and friends –  service providers, clients, residents, guests, and others. For some, it was their first time to Olympia and an introduction to advocacy in action. Others were veterans of HHAD. Everyone on the Advocacy Express bus was rearin’ and ready to make a difference, and that they did!

The Coalition’s Advocacy Express bus rolled up right on time to the morning activities, and found inspiration from the first of many speakers that day. Housing Alliance staff, State legislators, and superstar Real Change vendor Pam Russell all spoke how POWERFUL we housing advocates are when we speak up and act together. It’s because of our collective action and advocacy that the Document Recording Fee bill came back from the dead last session, remember!

Our rally at the Capitol steps was a sight to be seen (and heard!). We were inspired by the voices around us. People who have experienced homelessness personally, service providers, representatives from advocacy organizations, students, community members, and people from all walks of life from all over the state were represented as we chanted from the steps through the buildings of the Capitol:

“When they say ‘cutback’ we say fightback!”
“Get up, get down, there’s a housing crisis in this town.”

We were a sea of 650 people wearing red scarves, red shirts, red hats, and many people wore our One Night Count ‘3772’ and Student Homelessness ‘32,494’ buttons. Even as folks dispersed into their legislative district groups, we were unified and unmistakable throughout the halls of the Capitol. Each button and scarf quietly communicated a strong message of solidarity and the importance of these issues.

In addition to the work we do to recruit and transport folks to HHAD, we at the Coalition have the distinct pleasure of also delivering over 1,100 One Night Count advocacy postcards to legislators who represent parts of King County. Hillary and I had great conversations with many Legislative Assistants, some Legislators, and plenty of the helpful staff at the Capitol.

There’s enough energy, passion,and community at HHAD to recharge and reignite our commitment and resolve to take action and make change. Thank you to each and every person who participated! HHAD is but one day a year – and a great day at that – and the other 364 days are just as important. Whatever the method, make sure your legislators hear from you, and hear from you often. Every call, email, letter, and in-person visit throughout the year is what builds and sustains the momentum we need to make positive change in our communities and across our state for people who are homeless and unstably housed.

HHAD 2015 Bus ride home

Thanks for all you do to speak up!

– Hillary and Rebecca

Q&A – Helping people get on the bus with ORCA LIFT, our Low Income Metro Fare.

Phase 1. Together, we organized, called, spoke, e-mailed, and wrote. Our community voted. And we won ourselves a mighty Low Income Metro Fare. Commence celebration #1.

ORCA LIFTThe newly named ORCA LIFT program will begin on March 1. We encourage you to help your residents, guests, and clients sign up prior to March 1, so that they can take full advantage of the program.

Phase 2: We know you have a lot of questions about how this brand new program will work, who will really benefit, and, above all, what you should be telling people. We’ve pulled together some of the BIGGEST questions and will answer them in this blog post. Please do also consult Metro’s easy-to-navigate ORCA LIFT website. Oh, and here’s a helpful color copy of the ORCA LIFT brochure!

WHO QUALIFIES?
Anyone 18 years old or older whose household income is no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty line (FPL). The chart below shows the federal poverty guidelines by household size.

Household Size 200%
1 $23,340
2 $31,460
3 $39,580
4 $47,700
5 $55,820
6 $63,940
7 $72,060
8 $80,180

CAN MY AGENCY QUALIFY FOR ORCA LIFT CARDS AND PASS THEM OUT TO OUR GUEST/RESIDENTS/CLIENTS WHO QUALIFY?
No. ORCA LIFT cards must be tied to an individual person who has goes through the verification process with one of the 9 authorized agencies. See more info below. 

IS ORCA LIFT A BETTER DEAL THAN THE OTHER REDUCE FARE PROGRAMS?
ORCA LIFT is not always a better deal. Here’s some information to consider when helping clients/residents/guests weigh the cost/benefits:

FOR YOUNG PEOPLE . . .
The ORCA youth card reduced fare is available to young people up until the day of their 19th birthday. While it costs the same as the ORCA LIFT, the youth card is accepted throughout the entire transit system in our region. As of yet, ORCA LIFT is only accepted on King County Metro buses, Sound Transit Link light rail, Kitsap Transit, Seattle Streetcar and the King County Water Taxi. ORCA LIFT is only a better deal for young people who are 19+ years old.

FOR SENIORS AND THOSE WHO HAVE A DISABILITY . . .
If someone has already qualified for the Regional Reduced Fare Permit ORCA card (RRFP), then they should stick with that and not apply for the ORCA LIFT. Why? With the RRFP, they can pay a cheaper price (75 cents) in cash, the program covers the larger regional transit network, and permanent RRFP cards don’t expire.

OKAY, ORCA LIFT IS A GOOD FIT, BUT IS THE MONTHLY PASS WORTH IT?
This completely depends on how often an individual rides the bus, and whether they can pay upfront each month. The cost of the monthly pass – which offers unlimited rides – is $54. If someone rides the bus daily, then the monthly pass is definitely an excellent deal. If someone takes less than 36 one-way trips* on the bus per month, then the monthly pass is not worth it. You may want to help folks consider their spending patterns and discuss budgeting techniques so that they can afford the up-front fee each month.

*18 round-trip rides that won’t qualify for the 2-hour transfer.

WHERE CAN PEOPLE SIGN UP? IS THIS AN ONLINE PROCESS?
Metro has partnered with 9 agencies who will be authorized ORCA LIFT enrollment offices. Locations and hours of operation vary. No, folks cannot sign up online.

IMPORTANT NOTE: if one of the contracted social service agencies cannot enroll an applicant because they can’t verify identity and/or income, then ask them to refer the applicant to Public Health. Be prepared to follow up and advocate with and for your client/resident/guest. Read on for more information about this.

Here’s a list of the agencies:

WHAT TYPES OF DOCUMENTATION DO PEOPLE NEED?
Income and identity. Before I explain anything further, it’s important for you to understand that partner agencies – especially the King County Public Health team – are committed to trying every avenue to sign people up. Compared to other programs and documentation requirements, these are much more flexible, and allow for gettin’ creative. Be prepared to help folks think outside of the box! Examples below.

INCOME . . . 

  • Are they employed? If so, pay stubs, a letter from employer, copy of your most recent tax return (if self-employed) or bank statements over the last 30 days will suffice.
  • Do they have zero income? If so, Employment Security verification form will work.
  • Are they already receiving benefits from a program that has a similar income requirement (200% FPL or less)? For example: TANF, Apple Health/Medicaid, Basic Food (Food stamps), or even your own agency’s program (!). Make a copy of award letters, copy paperwork, or contact the agency/program to get a documentation letter.
  • Are they receiving an other benefits? For example: unemployment, SSI, Social Security, L & I, etc. Make a copy of award letters, copy paperwork, or contact the agency/program to get a documentation letter.

Example of getting creative with income verification . . . 
Let’s say you’re helping a mom and dad, who are not yet citizens of the US, sign up for ORCA LIFT. For many reasons, they can’t directly verify their income. However, after asking some questions, you find out that their children receive Apple Health. The verification agency (e.g., Public Health) can contact the Health Care Authority to get documentation of the kids’ eligibility status, which can then be used as income verification for the parents’ ORCA LIFT application.

IDENTITY . . . 

  • Any government-issued photo ID, including but not limited to: state photo ID, Driver’s license, tribal ID, school photo ID, Armed Services ID w/ photo.
  • A combo of two or more of the following (not a comprehensive list):
    • document with a current photo of you with your name
    • document that has your name and birthdate, including but not limited to: adoption papers, baptismal records, border crossing card, court order, employee ID card, marriage license, school records

Phase 3. Get on the bus with ORCA LIFT starting March 1. Commence celebration #2.

 

 

 

 

Amazing Voter Registration Wrap-up and on to Transportation Prop. 1 Phone Banks

Wow, what an amazing experience it was being able to jump into my internship with Voter Registration!  As of today our count for homeless and unstably housed new and updated registered voters is 176, and the numbers are still coming in from our dedicated member organizations!  So far we have surpassed our numbers from last year by over 60 voters and I want to give a shout-out to our hard working volunteers and our fantastic sites.  Getting to meet so many people who are doing great work in our community as well as community members who are speaking up by registering to vote was a great way for me to get a feel of what the Coalition is all about.

Members of Camp Unity were very thankful that we let people know that You Don’t Need A House To Vote. At the Urban Rest Stop I spoke to an individual who did not know his right to vote would be restored after he finished his time under Department of Corrections (DOC) supervision and was enthusiastic to spread the word. At Real Change many vendors were glad to update registrations and register for the first time while picking up their newspapers.  Over 84 people registered at various Compass Housing Alliance programs including the Hygiene Center, CSO, Pioneer Square Men’s Program, and Peter’s place.  We also worked with Community Lunch on Capitol Hill, Nickelsville, Tent City 3, Recovery Café, Aloha Inn, YouthCare and more during our registration drive!  On Monday, the registration deadline, one of our volunteers from DESC Connections let me know that many people she talked with about registering had already registered at Real Change or another site showing that we have reached many community members.  While the registration deadline for the November 4th election has come and gone, it is never too late to register to vote to be prepared for the future!

Up next:  Transportation Proposition 1 Phone Banks and Vote on November 4th! 

With updated voter registration status now YOU can take action and Say YES to Seattle Transit!  Together we can pass this proposition in Seattle that would Restore some routes, Add Busses to chronically overcrowded routes, and Increase Frequency of heavily traveled routes.  Further, money will be set aside by the city to make it easy for eligible residents to utilize Metro’s new Low Income Fare ($1.50) starting on March 1, 2015.

Phone Bank with the Coalition to Spread the Word!

  • We will be holding two phone banks and need volunteers to call the community to let them know about Proposition 1.  There are two Wednesdays to fill with volunteers.  Pizza will be provided for dinner and together we can Get Out The Vote for Seattle Buses!  Please let Hillary know if you can join on one or both dates ASAP at hillary@homelessinfo.org or by calling 206-204-8357.

Wednesday October 15th: 5:30-8pm, pizza included

  • Location: OneAmerica Office: 1225 S. Weller St. Suite 430 Seattle, WA 98144 (located in the international district by Rainier Ave S. and S Dearborn St, close to where I-5 and I-90 meet)

Wednesday October 22nd: 5:30-8pm, pizza included

  • OneAmerica Office: 1225 S. Weller St. Suite 430 Seattle, WA 98144 (same location)

 

Youth Housing Connection: Two dates to celebrate 1 Year for YHC!

Attention Youth and Young Adults Committee members and other interested parties:

Here are two opportunities this month to celebrate one year of great work by the Youth Housing Connection (YHC) and to offer valuable feedback about changes and next steps for their second year.

Wednesday, September 17

10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Tukwila Community Center (12424 42nd Ave S, Seattle, WA 98168)

OR

Wednesday, September 24

1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

2100 Building (2100 24th Ave S, Seattle)

Join the Committee to End Homelessness and the YHC team for YHC at Year One: Learnings and Reorientation to review lessons learned, correct misconceptions, and review opportunities for community feedback and training.This event is open to all stakeholders, community members and service providers, but funders, agency leadership, supervisors and front line staff are especially encouraged to attend. We hope you will be able to make it!

$15 Minimum Wage – A Shared Commitment

Last November, voters in SeaTac approved increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making national news and inspiring vigorous public conversations about wages, affordability, and income inequality in coffee shops and town halls, on buses, and around water coolers across our region.   Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant have been working hard on this issue, and the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee is scheduled to release recommendations at the end of April.  The Coalition on Homelessness has been a part of the conversation about the opportunities and complexities of raising the minimum wage as a member of the Seattle Human Services Coalition (SHSC), a coalition of direct service providers and advocacy groups (see background materials below).  We’ll be taking up this conversation at our April 17 General Membership meeting with Tony Lee, from Poverty Action, and other special guests.  Please join us to discuss the practical, political, and policy issues related to raising the minimum wage for all workers, including human services and housing providers. As usual, we meet on the third Thursday from 9-11 a.m. at the E. Cherry St. YWCA (2820 E. Cherry St.) in Seattle.

Background:

In late March, SHSC, together with Working Washington, SEIU 925, and Kids First Seattle issued a joint press release affirming their clear commitment to a $15 minimum wage because it “lifts workers out of poverty, boosts the economy, and strengthens people’s abilities to meet their basic human needs.” These labor and human services groups noted:

“The current citywide conversation about income inequality and the minimum wage should not be used to pit one low income group against another, because we know that those who work in poverty-wage jobs and those who receive human services can be the very same people. Thousands of low-wage workers can’t feed themselves without help from food banks, and can’t possibly afford early childhood education for their children without public support. And at $9.32 an hour, a housing crisis is never more than a paycheck away.”

The Seattle Human Services Coalition laid out five key points in an  “Issues Advisory on $15 Minimum Wage and Impact for Human Services.” Here is an excerpt from the Executive Summary:

The Seattle Human Services Coalition recognizes the importance of a livable minimum wage in addressing poverty in our community. SHSC fully supports raising the minimum wage for all human services workers (and others) to $15/hr.

We are also acutely aware that this call for raising the minimum wage must be done in such a way that does not result in a decrease in urgently needed services; any solution must take into account the impact on the vulnerable people we serve.

We call upon elected leaders and other stakeholders to take all five of these actions:

      • Include non-profit human service employees in any recommended increases to the minimum wage.
      • Ensure that wage standards and city contract requirements do not lead to a reduction of needed human services.
      • Increase local investments in pay equity, including human services employees.
      • Move the discussion beyond an hourly wage to examine the broader issue of income inequality in our region.
      • Set a base wage that does not include other forms of compensation.

 

Policy Update: The 2014 Legislative Session — Part 3

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Fifty days down and ten more to go in this 60-day Legislative Session. At last we wrote, the future looked promising on key bills related to housing and homelessness. Then came our February 24th Take Action alert regarding two crucial bills that needed additional, feverish support. What followed has been a flurry of call-to-actions via Facebook posts, Coalition e-mails, and direct phone calls — anything to get movement on devastating (and incredibly unnecessary!) roadblocks in the Senate. At this point, some of our bills continue on with smooth sailing, others require heavy lifts, and others have been tabled until next session. 

Seasoned advocates, led by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA), will keep working to revive key bills until the very end of the session on March 13.  Every call each of us makes reinforces the message that ending homelessness is a priority.   

What follows are updates and Action Alerts (when applicable) for each bill we’ve been following. Please take action today; call the free State Legislative Hotline (1-800-562-6000) between the hours of 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. to leave a message for your legislators.

  • Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge (aka Document Recording Fees): Failed to pass out of Senate Committee — this bill is currently dead
    • Update: Despite bi-partisan support in the Senate, Co-Chair Sen. Jan Angel abruptly ended the Senate’s FIHI Committee meeting before the bill was to come up for a vote. For a more detailed report, check out WLIHA’s blog post. Sen. Steve Hobbs (Angel’s Co-Chair!) had this to say: “To simply do away with a primary source of funding that actually helps solve the homeless problem is ignorant at best and evil at worst.” WLIHA is pushing to find a workaround.
    • Action Alert: Call your legislators today and say, “Please make sure the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge fees do NOT “sunset”: Support ESHB 2368. Also, please help all Washington residents have opportunities for safe, healthy affordable homes: make a deeper investment in affordable housing. Neither the House nor the Senate Capital Budget invests enough in our State Housing Trust Fund.”
  • Fair Tenant Screening Act, Part 3Failed to pass out of Senate Committee — this bill is dead
    • Update: Again, Co-Chair Sen. Jan Angel refused to bring this bill to a vote in the Senate’s FIHI Committee, which effectively killed the bill for the 2014 Legislative Session. Supporters will bring it back for the 2015 Legislative Session.
  • Youth Opportunities Act: Passed out of Senate’s HSC Committee, awaits floor action in the Senate Rules Committee
    • Update: HB 1651 has passed through the House, then the Senate, and now needs to be “pulled to a floor vote” in the Senate Rules Committee by this Friday, March 7 or else it will die. Some groups have withdrawn their opposition. Still, it’s dire that we counter the opposition’s calls to Senators!
    • Action Alert: Use this link from the Children’s Alliance to send a message of support to your Senator. Please also call your Senator with this simple message: “Please ensure HB 1651 gets a vote in the Senate! The time is now; we cannot afford to wait. This bill will help prevent another 10,000 youth from having their records unnecessarily distributed over the next year!”
  • Homeless Children’s Education Act: HB 2373 is in Senate Rules Committee, SB 6074 is in House Rules Committee. 
    • Update: Both bills successfully passed through both houses, and are in their respective Rules Committee. One difference is that the Senate Budget includes funds to support the bill, but the House Budget does not.
    • Action Alert: Please call the Legislative Hotline at (800) 562-6000 to urge your Representatives to amend their Operating Budget to include the necessary funds for SB 6074.
  • Housing and Essential Needs & Aged, Blind or Disabled: No cuts
    • Update: Both the House and Senate supplemental budget proposals make no cuts to HEN and ABD. Plus, mystery bill SB 6573 has been explained. In short, it changes the definition of disability for both programs, which would result in savings that would be swept into the General Fund. (Read a more detailed report here.)
    • Action Alert: Call the Legislative Hotline at (800) 562-6000 to urge your lawmakers to “to pass SB 6573 and to reinvest its savings into HEN. Also, please use any incapacity exam savings to reinvest back into HEN and ABD.”
  • Housing Trust Fund: No budget appropriate in the Senate, low appropriation in the House.
    • Update: Advocates were surprised by the low appropriation of funds in the House’s supplemental budget, but not surprised by the Senate’s lack of appropriated in their supplemental budget. Check out WLIHA’s Budget Tracker to get the big picture differences among each proposed budget.
    • Action Alert: Call the Legislative Hotline at (800) 562-6000 to urge your lawmakers to “please help all Washington residents have opportunities for safe, healthy affordable homes: make a deeper investment in affordable housing. Neither the House nor the Senate Capital Budget invests enough in our State Housing Trust Fund.”
  • Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity: House Bill Died —  No action this session
    • The Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity did not make it out of the House (HB 2399), and did not have a companion bill in the Senate. The bill is no longer being considered this session; stay tuned for another attempt to pass CROP next session! Contact your Legislators throughout the year to let them know the importance of CROP.

Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to ensure that Everyone Counts 365 days a year. 

The One Night Count: A Lesson in Gratitude

Photo Credit: Joe Iano for SKCCHThis is the second in a sequence of posts spotlighting the experiences and takeaways of some of our One Night Count volunteers.

The One Night Count is a snapshot of the number of people who are homeless outside. Overnight Thursday – Friday, January 23-24, hundreds of volunteers from across King County showed up to help with the One Night Count at headquarters in Seattle, Shoreline, Bellevue, Auburn, Federal Way, Kent, White Center, the University District, and Renton. This year, in the wee morning hours from 2-5 a.m. volunteers documented 3,123 people trying to make it through a winter night outside, while shelters were full.

While volunteers share the same mission during the Count and a common vision of our community without homelessness, each volunteer has their own unique story. Keep coming back to hear more of their stories.

This moving and powerful story was written by Kahla B-K, a first-time counter who is interning at Solid Ground, and was originally posted on Solid Ground’s blog. Kahla has graciously given us permission to re-post it here for you all to read. Here are her words:

As we gathered in the wee hours of Friday, January 24 at the Compass Housing Alliance for our initial One Night Count volunteer briefing, I thanked the twinkling stars above it wasn’t raining. Over 800 of us would spread out across King County to search for and count people sleeping outside without shelter. The One Night Count (organized by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness) would be a snapshot of homelessness between the hours of 2 and 5am.

As the count began, my team and I quietly weaved our way around the streetlamp-lit areas first, peeking into parked cars and doorways. There was no one in sight. It seemed as if everyone else in the world had vanished. That feeling was probably what allowed me to peer into the dark gaps between dumpsters, or make my way into the spaces between buildings I would never, under normal circumstances, walk into at night. The mood was warm – light, like the glow from the lamps overhead. But that would change.

The cold reality
As the condensation slowly turned to frost, the warmth I had felt was replaced with a shiver. A large park was last on our map to check. We had been told before setting out that we would likely find people here; people really do come to this park to sleep. I was fearful; beyond the reach of the sentinel streetlights, the shadowed expanse behind the vine-choked fence was eerie and unnerving.

It’s one thing to think about the experience of homelessness while warm and safe in bed, but actually going to places where people without homes might sleep was entirely different. I couldn’t imagine having to decide where to sleep each night, let alone the circumstances that would lead me to believe that entering a dark park – without a flashlight – was the best option. What I felt was probably only a glimpse of the fear people experiencing homelessness deal with every day.

We found no one sleeping in the park, however – perhaps we just couldn’t see them. As we ended our search and began our walk back to our group’s meeting spot, we admitted how relieved we were to have a zero tally. That’s when we met John (name changed for privacy).

A face of homelessness
I knew immediately when I saw him that he was homeless. No one, if they could help it, would be out wearing only a thin hoodie and track pants. He threw a smile our way then politely asked us who we were with – noting the bright yellow “volunteer” stickers plastered all over our clothes. A member of our group explained what we were doing out so late at night. John paused and looked down, and then said that he, too, was without a home.

He told us his story and of the complications preventing him from getting the help he needed. All the problems he recounted wove perfectly into the pattern of homelessness – all the issues that agencies like ours are fighting to dismantle. As we talked, he shivered uncontrollably, so strongly at one point he almost lost his balance. And then, diplomatically, he asked if us if there was anything we could do to help.

My coworker and I locked eyes; no words were needed to express how we felt. We had nothing to offer at that moment. If we felt helpless, John’s feelings of utter hopelessness must have been overwhelming. Indeed, he started to sob for a moment in the crook of his arm, hiding his face so we couldn’t see. With tears still caught in the lines under his eyes, he explained his medical condition and the barriers he’s faced seeking treatment.

Clearly suffering from the cold, he said he needed to go to the hospital and asked if we could call 9-1-1, so we did. Fearful of what might have happened to him if we hadn’t been there to call for help, I was suddenly grateful for the icy phone I squeezed in my pocket. He asked us to stay with him until the ambulance arrived. He was still shaking and having trouble standing, so we walked over to the stairs behind us so he could sit. We continued to talk – about his childhood and how he got his name – named after his father’s wartime buddy. He made jokes about what it was like fighting for bathroom time in a house with four sisters.

A human connection
When the fire truck pulled up, he held out his hand to me to shake as he thanked us. He did not let go, but held my hand as he continued to talk on, not wanting us to leave. I didn’t try to pull away. How long had it been since he was able to just talk to someone – for someone to listen? How long since he was comforted by another person’s touch? No, I wouldn’t let go until he did – or until the paramedics made me, which is what happened.

We didn’t wait to see if they would take John somewhere or leave him; after touching base with our whole group, we went our separate ways. And as I drove by on my way home, John was gone. I hoped he was on his way to a warm bed.

The impact of that night lasted far longer than the cold that soaked into my bones after only three hours outside. I shivered the rest of the morning thinking about John and my experience participating in the One Night Count – my electric blanket turned all the way up. Two pairs of socks, two sweaters, a hoodie, and two pairs of pants weren’t enough to warm me – inside or out. While the experience of homelessness is impossible to understand in just a few hours’ time, I came away with a very important lesson that I keep reminding myself of: Be grateful for all that I have – not just a warm bed or a cell phone, but a loved one’s open ears and caring embrace.

If you are interested in getting involved or would like more information on the One Night Count, please visit: www.homelessinfo.org.

All Aboard! Act now to support the Reduced Metro Fare.

Metro Bus

If you’re an able-bodied 19-64-year-old in King County, a one-way bus trip will set you back $2.25-3.00, depending on peak hours and zones being traveled. A transfer ticket will keep the money for your return-trip in your pocket, but only if you get back on the bus within two hours; otherwise, it’s another $2.25-3.00. While Metro tickets are significantly cheaper than parking, on top of the additional combined cost having and maintaining a car, we at the Coalition know that even a one-way bus ticket is out of reach for many in our community.

The Coalition, along with friends and allies at Transportation Choices Coalition, the Seattle Human Services Coalition, Puget Sound Sage, OneAmerica, and the Transit Riders Union, has been a strong voice for a reduced transit fare for people who are low income. Now, we have a real chance to make this happen! See below for what YOU can do to make this a reality! 

King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed a reduced Metro fare that incorporates many of our recommendations.  People living up to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) would be eligible for a reduced fare of $1.50. In King County, nearly a quarter of the population is at or below 200% FPL. Eligibility would last for one year. At this rate, eligible riders could get a monthly ORCA pass with unlimited rides for $54.

While we are very pleased to see such a progressive and innovative proposal, we are urging the King County Council to further reduce the fare for people who are working to make ends meet.  There will be a special election this April, to raise revenue to save 600,000 hours of bus service: we are asking King County to use this opportunity to ‘buy down’ the fare to $1.25.

Metro is facing a $75 million budget shortfall, and there are 20% service cuts looming.

Why? Our local options for raising money to fund basic infrastructure, like public transportation, are limited by the State’s authority. Washington state’s lawmakers have not voted for more progressive taxes that would allow us to continue (and expand) services. In Executive Constantine’s words, “We’ve done everything within our means to keep people moving. We are out of time for a statewide solution that includes a local option. We must move forward on our own.” Now, the County has limited options to prevent service cuts.

In order to “move forward” we must pass a ballot measure up for public vote on April 22, 2014. The Executive is proposing to prevent bus cuts by increasing the sales tax by one tenth of one percent, and implementing a $60 car tab fee (there will be a partial rebate for some car owners, based on household income). It is frustrating that these two options are flat taxes, that will disproportionately burden poor and working people.  However, this is precisely why we have leverage to make the Reduced Fare happen!

Here’s what you can do right now:

  1. Call and Email your King County Councilmembers. Tell them you support the Reduced Metro Fare proposal, but that $1.50 is still too high, and we need a fairer fare. [Author’s note: I  just used this very link to look up who my King County Councilmember was. I found Larry Phillips’  phone number and left him a voicemail in just three minutes. You can do this!]
  2. Encourage others to do the same!

Here’s what you can plan to do next week:

  • Show your support for the Reduced Fare at King County’s Public Hearing on Tuesday, Feb 18 at 1:30 p.m.
    • Location: King County Council, Room 1001, King County Courthouse (516 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104)
    • Use the time devoted to public comment to share your message!