King County lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal money aimed to help homeless people this year because it was too wealthy, leaving holes in the budgets of organizations that have been able to count on the funding in years past.
The money comes from the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s Emergency Food and Shelter program, which aims to supplement and expand the work of local organizations that provide shelter, food and supportive services to people experiencing homelessness or other “economic emergencies.”
In 2017, King County received more than $809,000.
Although the money has been steady for several years, King County had unemployment and poverty rates too low to qualify, said Lauren McGowan, senior director of ending homelessness and poverty with United Way of King County, the organization that acts as a receiver for the FEMA dollars.
“It looks at this static number of unemployment and poverty,” McGowan said. “They don’t look at our point-in-time count number.”
Seattle and King County together have one of the highest number of homeless people in the United States after Los Angeles and New York.
The impact varies depending on the agency, McGowan said. For larger organizations, the lost money is less of an impact. For small ones, however, the lack of FEMA dollars could be their end.
In an email sent Thursday, Women in Black, an organization that stands for homeless people who have died outside or by violence, wrote about the loss of funding. Women in Black is a project of WHEEL, a self-managed women’s shelter that is connected to SHARE, a network of self-managed shelters.
SHARE could lose as much as $30,000 because of the loss of funding, a blow to an organization with an operating budget of roughly $1 million.
Loss of FEMA dollars leaves little funds for small agencies like SHARE
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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