Governor Jay Inslee has released a proposed supplemental operating budget that if approved would draw $300 million from the state’s budget stabilization account, also known as the “rainy day fund.” The money would be intended for shelter and housing for the homeless as part of a new goal by Inslee to reduce homelessness by 50 percent over the next two years.
A December 2018 report by the state Department of Commerce found that Washington has the fifth highest per capita rate of homelessness, and the total number of homeless has increased annually for the past six years. Inslee’s plan is to add 2,100 more shelter beds in the state and provide housing assistance to 3,000 homeless individuals. There are currently an estimated 10,000 homeless people in Washington.
Inslee’s budget also includes a new grant program intended to reduce the number of unsheltered people by 1,890.
According to a press release from Inslee’s office, “the investments will give cities and other jurisdictions the flexibility and funds to create local, personalized solutions. Each community will have the ability to create its own sheltering plan to boost shelter capacity and provide safer, more stable housing for people now living on the street.”
“This is not going to be just exclusively a state play,” Inslee said during a Dec. 18 press conference. “It’s going to be a partnership.”
Sen. Hans Zeiger (R-25) has proposed using the state’s share of document-recording fees on real estate transactions to help people avoid homelessness. “Diversion is a common-sense way to help people with life challenges: paying a month’s rent, assisting with car repairs, or providing transportation to reconnect with a friend or family member.”
Inslee’s supplemental transportation budget also assumes the passage of Initiative 976 approved by voters during the Nov. 5 election, despite an ongoing lawsuit. The budget calls for delaying highway projects, among other things. According to the proposed budget document, “pausing projects gives the governor and the Legislature more funding flexibility as they work to revise the current budget and develop a long-term plan for implementing the initiative.”