The King County Council on Tuesday unanimously approved $94.3 million in COVID-19 relief funding, nearly half of it federal money that will go toward housing assistance.
Along with supporting a rental assistance and eviction prevention program, the county’s sixth round of funding for COVID-19 relief will go toward vaccine distribution and contact tracing, education and outreach, funding of community organizations, and the creation of a new gun violence prevention program.
The JustCARE and Co-LEAD programs, which serve those experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, had been at risk of running out of funds. It will be extended through the end of March with $1.9 million from the remaining balance of the federal CARES Act relief fund. Vaccination efforts will be funded for 60 days through $11.2 million in funding from state grants.
The money comes from a variety of state and federal funding sources, not including the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The $45.2 million slated for rental assistance and eviction prevention derives from a supplement to the federal CARES Act. Public health and county operations will receive $29 million from the federal relief fund.
Additionally, $5 million will be used to establish a revolving fund for smaller nonprofit organizations that operate through grant programs and require federal reimbursement. The money will be fronted through the general fund and replenished through federal reimbursements.
A gun violence prevention program will be established with $2 million from the county’s general fund. Under the program, community-based organizations are asked to propose projects to prevent violence before it begins with a focus on young people.
King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, who proposed the program, said violence had increased amid the pandemic as people are not able to release stress in more normal ways.
Along with exacerbating anxiety and depression, “COVID-19 has devastated our economy, eliminated thousands of jobs, laid people off, created hardship, led people to become unhoused, trapped people with their abusers,” Zahilay said. “And all of these things have led to an increase in violence.”
Over the past week, a worker was shot in a Bryn Mawr-Skyway spa, and a man was shot and killed in a Rainier Valley church.
Dan Satterberg, King County’s prosecuting attorney, said the county needs a violence interruption street outreach program. In tracking gun violence over the past four years, his office found three out of four people — those who are shot and those who are charged in shootings — are young people of color.
“The thing that we don’t have is the ability to go and send street outreach workers with credibility into the community to know the kids who are most likely to carry guns and mostly likely to respond to violence with violence,” Satterberg said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “We need this yesterday, and it is an important part of an overall strategy to reduce the predictable violence in our community.”
A seventh COVID relief budget will be adopted later this spring. The County Council expects final action on its forthcoming budget on May 11. King County would be allotted $440 million under the American Rescue Act, according to Dwight Dively, the county’s director of the Office of Performance, Strategy and Budget.