In a crowded conference room last March, King County Executive Dow Constantine ordered emergency measures to respond to the first COVID-19 case in the nation at the time.
On Wednesday, over a year later, he stood alone at the same podium to announce a $600 million King County spending plan for economic recovery and public health, which was livestreamed through Zoom.
The seventh COVID-19 supplemental budget, which Constantine called “the largest supplemental budget in county history,” will be taken up by the Metropolitan King County Council in April and early May. The council expects final action on the latest round of COVID-19 funding relief on May 11. The County Council approved a sixth supplemental budget for $94.3 million on Tuesday.
The $600 million relief will come from a variety of state and federal sources, including $337 million from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. King County will receive $437 million of flexible funds in total from the latest federal relief plan, which will need to be used by 2024. The remaining $100 million will be used in future supplemental budgets later this year.
Additionally, $16 million from the county’s general fund and $247 million in state and FEMA funds will go toward the seventh supplemental budget.
“It continues the work that has saved lives, and it reflects my priorities as we transition from response, to recovery, to rebound,” Constantine said at Wednesday’s news conference.
Much of the funding — $253 million — will go toward a public health response, including the establishment of more mass vaccination sites, mobile health units, contact tracing and quarantine facilities. Provided there is enough supply, the capacity to administer doses will be tripled to 300,000 shots per week, Constantine said. Under the public health response, $5 million will go toward the county’s Office of Equity and Social Justice to distribute grants to community organizations and media with the aim of reducing hate and violence, particularly in light of a rise in violence against Asian Americans.
“In Martin Luther King County, we will not stand for racial violence and discrimination. Not now, not ever,” Constantine said.
About 33% of the money, or $199 million, will fund rental assistance, emergency homeless response, behavioral health services, child care and food programs. The county plans to test new approaches to providing shelter to people experiencing homelessness, which will first start in downtown Seattle and unincorporated areas including White Center.
Economic recovery investments will receive $92 million, with $25.6 million going toward a business and economic resiliency fund, which will fund business opportunities for Black, Indigenous and people of color residents. The county would also use money to support science, arts and cultural institutions; small business grants; and construction apprenticeships, among other investments. Under the economic recovery plan, $10.8 million will go toward the county’s cultural funding agency 4Culture’s relief fund, as well as a fund for events and festivals, and the restoration of jobs in the film industry.
“Culture is an essential ingredient to sustaining a region that is creative, innovative and adaptable to change,” Brian J. Carter, 4Culture executive director, said in a statement. “The ongoing pandemic, and resultant economic downturn, have proven devastating for the arts and culture sector. Funding, from the American Rescue Plan, will help ensure King County’s artists and cultural organizations endure,” Carter added.
The county’s spending plan also calls for $40 million for job programs which would expand Conservation Corps cleanup crews and create more than 300 new temporary jobs at the county or with county partners for people experiencing homelessness.
“After the trauma and the hardships of last year, the road ahead might look daunting,” Constantine said. “But I see a future where King County doesn’t simply return to what was, return to the status quo, but takes this truly unique opportunity to create a better, stronger, more equitable community.”