The future economic and social vitality of East King County is being threatened by cuts being proposed right now in our state legislature. As the special session begins, let’s remember what’s at stake.
People are hurting throughout King County, and the Eastside is no exception. By any measure, the most vulnerable community members are now being joined by those who were previously in the middle income strata and who were once donors and volunteers. The poverty rate is increasing, more families are finding themselves homeless, and the programs that used to provide a steady source of food, emergency assistance and medical care are being forced to turn increasing numbers of our neighbors away.
- Since 2008, there has been an 80 percent increase in the number of Washingtonians relying on food stamps.
- At the same time, funding to the Women Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental food program, the Emergency Food Assistance and Federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program has been severely reduced.
- The foreclosure rate has gone up by more than 300 percent since 2006.
- The unemployment rate in King County has more than doubled since 2008.
- Affordable housing, already lacking throughout King County, is now even more difficult to access due to cuts to the Housing Trust Fund and Community Development Block Grants.
- Approximately 158,000 King County residents are without health insurance; health clinics have been cut back resulting in few options for low-income community members.
While we certainly hold a compassionate view toward those who are struggling, it’s imperative that we recognize the bigger impact. Our concern is not just related to the safety net, but also our community's economic welfare. It makes good financial sense to ensure that all citizens can meet their basic needs. Healthy, well-fed people with housing are able to contribute to their own livelihood. These are the people who make a vibrant populace and create a thriving community. It is the investment in the economy through the investment in human potential that will pay off in the end.
We ask the public to join us in telling our state lawmakers to set and uphold public policies that maintain this safety net, especially now during these fiscally challenging times. As citizens, local officials and neighbors we need to point out the signs of the unraveling around us. Failure to protect the community safety net is a waste of taxpayer dollars that will result in a far greater expense over time than can be justified by any savings achieved in the short run.
—Pat Vache, Board Chair for the Eastside Human Services Forum and Redmond City Council President