It was hardly a victory, but it wasn't a defeat, either: On July 22, members of the King County Council's Law, Justice and Human Services Committee took a deep breath (and a short, let's-hammer-this-out recess), then proposed that 1 percent of the county's general fund, or about $6.3 million, be dedicated to human services in 2010. Priority would be given to those drug and mental health services that save on jail costs.
With the county now facing a $56 million deficit next year that threatens all the health and human services paid for from its general fund ($41 million), the committee has been trying for months to come up with a way to prioritize human services in the face of drastic cuts. The options on the table last week included setting aside either a dollar figure or a certain percentage of the general fund for human services.
The committee plans to take testimony on the 1 percent set-aside at a public hearing on July 29 at 1:30 p.m. in Room 1001 of the King County Courthouse, with a vote on the proposal scheduled Aug. 25. The motion would then be sent to the council's Budget Committee for consideration.
The Seattle Human Services Coalition is advocating a set-aside of 3.2 percent, or $18.5 million, the amount the county spent in 2008, says Julia Sterkovsky, the coalition's executive director. "It's been a little bit of a roller-coaster ride," Sterkovsky said after the committee meeting, but "the door is still open a crack and everybody needs to elbow that crack wider."
Earlier this week, the full council allocated an additional $1.2 million to get the county's family planning services through to the end of the year. Funding for the services, which are offered at nine public health clinics and include treatment for sexually transmitted diseases in addition to birth control and pregnancy testing, had been set to run out Sept. 30 after receiving only nine months of funding for 2009.
The move follows a similar emergency allocation of $2.7 million that the council made for human services on July 13.