Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy Renewal and Expansion: Advocacy Needed!

For over a decade, the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy (formerly known as the Vets and Human Services Levy) has funded critical healthcare, supports, and housing for our neighbors who need them most, along with domestic violence, public health, and other services.

Executive Constantine recently transmitted a strong proposal to King County Council, expanding the levy to be 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Now we need to urge King County Council members to BUILD ON and INCREASE that proposal, and place it on the November 7, 2017 ballot. People like YOU can help make this happen!

Take Liz Werley-Prieto as an example. Liz is the Project Manager of shelter programs at DESC who spoke at the conference on June 1st. Liz eloquently addressed how the importance of funding the levy is born out through the interactions between service providers and those they serve. Read Liz’s testimony then take action using this link and information below

Read Liz’s testimony here from May 31, 2017 at King County Council:

My name is Liz and I work as the Project Manager of DESC’s shelter program, located right across the street. Since January first, the shelter program registered more than 800 homeless clients seeking shelter who had not interacted with DESC’s services before. Almost without exception, the primary need expressed by these individuals was a place to live, and as service providers we have had to set the expectation again and again that getting a home will almost certainly be a long and difficult process, or that it might not happen at all.

Being homeless has an impact on the mental and physical health of a population already disproportionately affected by disabling conditions. For those of us working in social services, the urgency of having funding at or above the level proposed by Dow Constantine for the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy is born out every day in our interactions with those we serve.

For a much larger proportion of those who live and work in King County, the need for this levy is evident in other ways. The number of people living outside is ever-growing which contributes to the creation of makeshift encampments and leads individuals to meet their needs in ways that are financially and socially costly.

Research published in 2016 found a 44% reduction in days spent hospitalized among housed individuals as compared to the homeless, and an inpatient hospital stay in Washington State costs about $2,900 per day. The levy at hand attempts to serve veterans, older people, and others, such as the homeless, in a way that anticipates their housing and behavioral health needs rather than paying for emergency interventions when they are inevitably required. It does not increase spending on these supports, it has in fact saved $7 million since 2012 by reducing emergency medical and criminal justice involvement.

The $54 per year for the average homeowner that the levy would cost at the proposed level is money that will lead to a higher quality of life for all residents of King County, and most dramatically for individuals impacted by severe mental illness or complicated medical conditions. I urge you to support the levy at least the twelve cents per thousand dollars rate being proposed.

Now we ask that you TAKE ACTION:

January 2017 General Membership Meeting: Accountable WA, Legislative Advocacy

Thanks to those who joined us on Thursday, January 17 for our first General membership meeting of 2017! We had an action packed agenda complete with a call in to Olympia to start off our 2017 legislative advocacy. We were joined by community members from Catholic Community Services & Catholic Housing Services, Crisis Clinic, Friends of Youth, Housing Development Consortium, Jewish Family Services, Low Income Housing Institute, Plymouth Housing Group, REACH, Real Change, Recovery Cafe, All Home, Youth Care, and more! We heard a great presentation, called in to Olympia about legislative priorities, and signed famous Coalition Advocacy Postcards.

Please read on for a summary of our meeting & important actions YOU can take before our next General Membership Meeting on Thursday, February 16th.

Accountable WA, Kelli Smith, WA Budget & Policy Center

As we know, Washington State had one of the most inequitable tax structures in the country, we do not have an income tax and therefore rely on sales tax and property tax to fund vital programs our communities need and to raise revenue. This structure causes people with lower incomes to pay disproportionately more of their income to taxes than people in the highest income bracket.

The WA Budget and Policy Center, working with many organizations, has developed a package of legislation that would fix some of our tax problems, and make it so that people who are earning the least are not contributing the most in taxes (currently people who are in the lowest 20% income group contribute 16.8% of their income as WA state and local taxes, compared to those in the top 1% who contribute just 2.4% of their income to WA state and local taxes).

There are two main goals of Accountable WA, we encourage you to learn more at the links below and click here to view slides of this presentation.

  • Lead with equity by reducing taxes for households making $75,000 or less.
  • Generate $4 billion per biennium in new revenue for schools, other priorities from equitable sources.

Ponder This: 
Have you ever been troubled with choosing between raising property taxes to fund pubic transit, schools, or another important social program? The Accountable WA package has a measure to cap the amount of property taxes that people with household incomes under $75,000 pay: it shuts off property taxes at 2% of household income. It’s AMAZING because the same measures will apply to RENTERS!!! (As you can tell, we’re very excited about this). The gist for renters is that if your household income is under $75,000/year, you can calculate your property tax as 15% of your rent, and if that amount is above the 2% cap of your income, then you get a rebate! More than 40% of Washington homeowners and renters would benefit from this property tax safeguard credit, and then people would hopefully feel like they can vote to fund essential programs through taxes. This is definitely worth calling to your state legislators about 🙂

The proposal is strong and we encourage you to check it out here, visit www.budgetandpolicy.org and www.allinforwa.org For more information!

Legislative Session Highlights & Updates:
The 2017 Legislative Session started on Monday, January 9th. We partner with many organizations for legislative advocacy – check out some of our priority messages below, visit www.wliha.org for Housing & Homelessness priorities & stay tuned for more. Print our postcard to send these priorities to Olympia!

  • Washington Housing Opportunities Act (HB 1570) – prime sponsor: Representative Nicole Macri (43rd LD) – 
    • MAKE PERMANENT & INCREASE funding for housing & homelessness services (HB 1570). End the sunset on all fees. Provide flexibility for local communities; drop the inefficient mandate to use 45% of funds for one purpose.
  • Housing & Essential Needs (HEN), Aged, Blind, & Disabled (ABD), and SSI Facilitation
    • PROTECT elders and people with disabilities, & prevent homelessness. Help people meet their basic needs & access recovery: FULLY FUND Housing & Essential Needs (HEN), Aged, Blind, & Disabled (ABD), and SSI Facilitation. Invest $29.617M to increase the $197/mo. grant to $400 for people eligible for ABD. Invest $1.893M to fund $20/mo. transportation assistance for people eligible for HEN. End the asset limit for ABD & HEN.
  • Source of Income Discrimination – Ban it!
    • ELIMINATE barriers to housing. Ban Source of Income Discrimination so that renters who use housing subsidies and other sources of income support can find and keep homes in their communities.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
    • FULLY RESTORE the TANF grant to its 2011 level & end the asset test. This will increase support for a family of 3 to $562/mo. and allow families with children to save for necessities or a rental deposit.

Take Action this week & next: 

  • Ride the Advocacy Express to Housing & Homelessness Advocacy Day on Thursday February 2nd! Want to join? Let us know by January 27th. Click here for more information.
  • Speak UP in Olympia TODAY (and every day/week throughout this legislative session)
    • Print Advocacy Postcards and share them with people you work with or in communities you are part of – mail them to the Coalition and we will bring them to Olympia in a stack of over 100 on HHAD.
    • Who are your legislators? If you don’t know, click here to find out (all the way from local to federal level). Next step: call their offices and advocate for important bills & budgets!
    • 1-800-562-6000 – Legislative Hotline in Olympia – you can call from 8am – 8pm Monday – Friday, and the kind people on the phone will take your message and give it to your representatives (you can cc the Governor as well!)
  • Homelessness Advocacy 101 workshops: click here to register today!
    • Saturday, February 4: 10:30am – 1pm at the UW School of Social Work
    • Wednesday, February 22: 6-8pm in Ballard
    • Sunday, February 26: 1pm in Bellevue
    • Sunday, March 5: 1pm in Auburn

Prep for our February 16th meeting: 
In February we will be joined by Sara Hoffman from Coordinated Entry for All to have a discussion about the system. We’ll also have a chance to talk about the new All Home Dashboards. Here’s what you can do to prep: