Council budget leadership restores $1.4 million in critical human service programs
StoryAfter hearing painful personal testimonies from survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault at four public hearings, members of the Metropolitan King County Council’s Budget Leadership Team today announced they have reprioritized funds in their 2010 budget proposal to fully restore programs that prevent violence against women and families with children at 2009 levels.
“Every year we are reminded of the vital role public input has on our budget process,” said Council Budget Chair Larry Gossett. “Compelling stories from the survivors of abuse and the agencies that help them escape started at our first public hearing in Bellevue and continued throughout our budget deliberations. These are programs that literally save lives—we could not let them end.”
“The voices of the abused spoke and we listened,” said Budget Vice Chair Jane Hague. “Our legal community stands ready to help victims leave abusive homes and move forward with their lives and we chose to support them.”
“These difficult economic times create additional stress for families,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “Regretfully, this can result in an increase in the incidence of domestic violence. Experts tell us only 1 in 18 survivors receives the kind of services they need to escape abuse and recover from assault. By meeting these important needs, this budget provides the basic human services that help the survivors of domestic violence and assist the criminal justice system.”
“It’s no coincidence that the three women on the budget leadership team have stood together and made a powerful case for funding domestic violence and sexual assault prevention,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson. “Women’s homes and lives are in crisis more than ever before and we cannot stand by and watch more of our family, our friends, and our neighbors become victims of violence.”
The Councilmembers said the revised county budget they will release tomorrow will restore nearly $1.4 million in dedicated and general funds for programs for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault, and for legal aid programs that help survivors obtain restraining orders and navigate the judicial system.
The so-called “budget striker” to be released tomorrow will restore:
• $764,000 in the general fund for domestic violence prevention,
• $504,000 for the prevention of sexual assault, half of which is supported by the general fund and half from the sales tax dedicated for mental illness and drug dependency programs, and
• $108,000 in the general fund for legal aid programs that support families with children.
Council budget leadership funded the programs in their striker by reprioritizing some of the $3 million set aside in the Executive Proposed Budget to transition the County out of animal sheltering services. Since then, the Council has called for the County to make that transition sooner, by January 31, 2010.
Leaders of domestic violence and sexual assault prevention programs praised the Council’s Budget Leadership Team for the full restoration of funding at 2009 levels. The Executive Proposed Budget had called for an 80 percent cut to domestic violence and sexual assault prevention, and complete elimination of funding for legal aid programs.
“You have shown the courage that victims and their families show when they speak out, you have shown that our community has the convictions to keep these critical services in place. Because of your actions we will not have to tell two families every day that we can’t help them because we don’t have the staff,” said Mary Ellen Stone, executive director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. “We also recognize this is a one-year fix. We need long-term, dedicated funding for regional community health and human services and we are committed to working with you to accomplish this.”
“Thanks to your action, this funding will keep hotlines staffed, emergency shelters open, and enable support groups to continue,” said Merril Cousin, executive director of the King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “We understand this is a one-year reprieve, and if we are going to have a community where our friends, families and neighbors can get the help they need during hard times, we need adequate, long-term, dedicated funding for these services. We look forward to working to make this long-term solution a reality in 2010.”
“We commend the King County Council for recognizing the importance of continuing to support critically-needed services for vulnerable members of our community,” said Jorge Baron, Executive Director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
The Budget Leadership Team is set to release its proposed budget tomorrow. The full County Council is set to adopt the 2010 King County Budget on Monday, November 23.
The King County buget leadership team is joined by Domestic Violence leaders Merril Cousin (l) and Mary Ellen Stone.