Mayor Durkan rejects federal funding for hotel shelters
Two Seattle City Councilmembers expressed outrage after Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office turned down an offer from President Joe Biden’s Federal Emergency Management Administration to pay for hotels to be converted to new shelters and house people living outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The news of Durkan rejecting the offer was first reported by PubliCola Feb. 26. Under Biden, fema will reimburse 100% of COVID-19 costs, including setting up such shelters during the pandemic. This reimbursement is up from 75% during the Trump administration, and retroactive to January 2020. Only Durkan has the authority to actually spend this money.
In a memo to City Council members, City Budget Director Ben Noble and Office of Emergency Management director Curry Mayer argued that it would not be possible to get this reimbursement because of fema requirements, and that fema would not reimburse the costs of behavioral health services in such shelters.
In a statement, Councilmember Tammy Morales argued that the city should nevertheless try to work through the challenges to get the fema reimbursement. “To leave fema funding on the table, when the Biden administration has said reimbursement is possible, is frustrating to say the least,” Morales said.
Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said putting people in hotels is a proven strategy to keep them safe during the pandemic. “These proposed federal dollars are at the necessary scale to address what can be likened to a house on fire,” Mosqueda continued. “Our current response is a bucket of water in comparison, and we need a fire hose. It is imperative we tap this resource.”
City opening new permanent vaccine sites
Seattle is expanding its mobile vaccination program and opening two new, permanent vaccination sites at testing sites in West Seattle and Rainier Beach that together could vaccinate 2,000 people per week. The city will also open a mass vaccination site at Lumen Field Event Center later in March, which can vaccinate 5,000 people per week.
It’s important to note that due to limited supply of the vaccine, people will not be allowed simply to show up and get vaccinated. Those eligible can get referred through community-based or faith-based organizations and healthcare providers.
City Council president’s chief of staff running for Council
Brianna Thomas, chief of staff to Seattle City Council President Lorena González, is running for the at-large Council position that her boss González is leaving to run for mayor this year.
Thomas has worked in City Hall for five years. She previously managed the campaigns for Democracy Vouchers, which allow citizens to contribute funds directly to candidates, and the $15 minimum wage in SeaTac.
Read more of the Mar. 3-9, 2021 issue.