An initial budgeting error from the King County Regional Homelessness Authority risked funding for core homelessness services, such as outreach, shelter and housing.

In an already tricky budget year, the homelessness authority is asking the Seattle City Council to add funding promised to 12 agencies by redistributing funds from other places to cover the mistake.

A summer proposal by the homelessness authority, a young intergovernmental agency designed to lead solutions for homelessness in Seattle and surrounding suburbs, asked the city of Seattle and King County to fund a 2023 budget that mistakenly assumed $9.4 million in federal one-time pandemic relief money would be available.

In reality, those funds, which propped up the authority’s $119 million 2022 budget, expire at the end of this year.

“I’m not going to do that government thing and try to spin some error into something else. There was an error,” Marc Dones, CEO of the authority said Wednesday.

“But we’re really not out here saying ‘oopsies, fix it,'” Dones added. “And I hope that our partners are characterizing this as a collaborative solving, rather than a sort of abdication of responsibility.”

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The agency’s proposal went to the city’s budget office in June, where the mistake was noticed by city staff.

According to the mayor’s office, the city asked in June what programs were funded in 2022 with the expiring money and what would be the “anticipated impacts of the funding coming to an end.”

When the city received a response from the regional homelessness authority on or around July 18, the city decided it was too little too late to include in the 2023 budget, which was released Sept. 27.

“The estimates needed more detail and were submitted too late in the ongoing budget process for further follow up and analysis,” Jamie Housen, communications director for the mayor’s office, wrote in an email Thursday.

Harrell’s proposed $1.6 billion operating budget included $88 million for the authority, but did not provide the missing $9.4 million, even as it replaced other one-time funding — including $2.9 million in 2023 and $7 million in 2024 to sustain tiny house villages, safe parking lots, and emergency shelter.

The $9.4 million funds 12 partner organizations running diversion, emergency shelter, rehousing and other programs, including:

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  • Africatown — Homelessness diversion program
  • Catholic Community Services — Enhanced 24/7 shelter and rapid rehousing services
  • Compass — Expanded shelter capacity
  • DESC — Shelter capacity and services
  • Lake City Partners — Extended hours and additional space for day center services
  • New Horizon Ministries — 24/7 shelter model
  • ROOTS — Shelter services
  • The Salvation Army — Women’s shelter
  • Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle — Young adult shelter
  • YMCA — Rapid rehousing services
  • YouthCare — Expanded service hours and 24/7 service model
  • YWCA — Hotel vouchers and client assistance services

When the City Council began public debate on the budget, Councilmember Tammy Morales introduced the amendment to provide funding to fill the gap, saying the funds account for an average of 40% of the programs’ overall operating budgets.

“Thousands of people are sleeping outside, so we can’t afford to reduce essential services,” Morales said when introducing the amendment in late October. 

While balancing the budget to account for council amendments and a worsening revenue forecast, City Council budget chair Teresa Mosqueda included a revised version of Morales’ amendment to give the regional homelessness authority $3.9 million from the city in 2023 and utilize $5.4 million that the authority offered from unspent funds in 2022.

“We wanted to make sure to be good partners with [King County Regional Homelessness Authority], but also those organizations who we didn’t want to see face a cliff,” Mosqueda said.

Anne Martens, spokesperson for the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, said the unspent funds come from a planned RV Safe Lot, rapid rehousing contracts and shelter contracts.

She said the authority and city have been “jointly working to cure” the error since the summer.

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“As soon as we entered into discussion around how to close this gap, and as the revenue projections for the city began to crystallize, you know, we voluntarily scrubbed our budget to try to find underspend,” said authority CEO Dones.

According to Mosqueda, the authority proposed adding new unspent funds as late as late Thursday afternoon that could reduce the city’s contribution to just $1.5 million in a future budget amendment.

Harrell spokesperson Housen said the mayor supports the amendment to add the funds left out of Harrell’s own budget and the office “will continue working collaboratively with KCRHA and the City Council on these investments and more.”

Going forward, Dones said the authority will increase the size of its budgeting team and alter the proposal process to more closely monitor funding sources and potential end dates.