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Regional leaders support renewal of King County Veterans and Human Services Levy

Summary

Proposed ballot measure would renew existing levy, set to expire in 2011

Story

The Metropolitan King County Council’s Regional Policy Committee, which consist of County Councilmembers, members of the Seattle City Council and representatives of the Suburban Cities Association, today voted unanimously to approve legislation that would send a ballot proposal to renew the King County Veterans and Human Services Levy to County voters.

“The Veterans and Human Services Levy is dedicated to improving the lives of those who were willing to sacrifice their lives for our safety,” said County Councilmember Bob Ferguson, the prime sponsor of both the proposed renewal and the original legislation that sent the Veterans and Human Services Levy to the ballot in 2005. “The levy invests in critical services for our veterans and our families in need across all of King County. These investments are needed more than ever during these tough economic times.”

The members of the Regional Policy Committee voted in favor of renewing the levy for an additional six years at the current rate of 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. No new taxes are included in the proposal.

“The Veterans and Human Services Levy has helped improve and widen access to services for veterans and others in King County,” said County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, Chair of the Regional Policy Committee and a veteran who co-sponsored the legislation. “The support for the Levy is a reflection of the commitment of our citizens to the service of veterans in our region.”

“The Veterans and Human Services Levy, and the services and programs for veterans and others it helps fund, are more critical than ever,” said Regional Policy Committee Vice Chair Pete Lewis, Mayor of Auburn and a veteran. “The investments of the Levy help leverage other funding, particularly for veterans, which is why it has been so successful and has earned our continued support.”

“The public overwhelmingly supported this levy because of the known need 6 years ago,” said County Councilmember Joe McDermott. “The levy’s programs have been very successful, yet the need continues so I am very supportive of continuing the existing Veterans and Human Services Levy.”

“As a veteran of Afghanistan and a reservist, I understand how service for our returning veterans is vital for them and our community,” said Lake Forest Park Deputy Mayor Dwight Thompson. “The Veterans and Human Services Levy helps meet the unique needs of veterans and honors their service in a way that we were not able to do for those returning from Vietnam.”

The approved renewal sets the same rate as the original 6-year Veterans and Human Services Levy which was approved by 58 percent of County voters in 2005. Approximately $14.5 million a year would be generated by the levy. Consistent with the current levy, half of the proceeds would be dedicated exclusively for programs to assist veterans and their families. The other half would support general human service programs available to all King County residents.

In the last 6 years, the Levy has provided funding for critical veterans’ services, including:

• Treatment services for veterans and families dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),
• Emergency financial assistance for thousands of veterans and military personal to pay for rent, food, utilities, medical needs, and burial costs.
• Job training and employment assistance for unemployed veterans.
• New veterans’ housing projects in Bellevue, Renton, and Seattle, and a 45 percent increase in shelter beds for homeless veterans.
• Reduced recidivism among incarcerated veterans through the Veterans Incarceration Project.

The Levy has also provided key funding for general human services programs, including:

• Improved safety and well-being for children in the dependency system through the Family Treatment Court which provides drug and alcohol treatment access for parents and judicial monitoring of sobriety,
• Integrated mental health and chemical dependency services with primary care in 22 clinics throughout the county,
• Education and intensive support for first time, low-income pregnant women and young mothers through expansion of the Nurse Family Partnership.
• 24/7 emergency transportation, sobering, and intensive case management services for homeless chronic substance abusers in the downtown Seattle area through expansion of the Emergency Service Patrol.

The 2005 Veterans and Human Services Levy will expire on December 31, 2011. In order for the Levy to continue, the County Council must vote to place renewal of the Levy on the ballot in 2011 and a majority of King County voters must support it.

“This Levy is a fundamental t component of keeping veterans and others at risk not just safe—but alive,” said Seattle City Councilmember Sally Clark. “The ability to marry these dollars with housing dollars makes the difference in someone successfully staying housed versus cycling back into jail or the streets.”

“I strongly support the renewal of this Levy so it can continue to reach veterans and families in need throughout the region, including rural areas like Snoqualmie,” said Snoqualmie Mayor Matthew Lawson.

After its adoption by the Regional Policy Committee, the legislation is being sent to the Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee for further consideration.



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