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Council's Draft 2021 Budget

After weeks of hard work, discussion, and public input, Council debuted its draft budget package. We focused on the shared priorities of economic recovery, housing, health, community safety and GND. Watch this video showing highlights of what’s in the proposed package:

Today the Council discussed the Council’s Draft 2021 Budget. As Budget Chair, the guiding framework that I brought into crafting this revised budget is reflected in its title - Equity and Economic Recovery: Health, Housing, and Safety. A few examples of those investments are included here but please read all the items in today's budget presentation to get a full picture of the robust investments and protections for our community. Working together, the City Councilmembers were able to restore the near-zero reserves back to a relatively healthy level, helping ensure we are ready for 2021, while also making significant investments into the issues that face our City and that need resolution: homelessness, equity, community safety, affordable housing, small business support, green new deal investments and supporting our workers. 

This budget was informed by all Councilmembers who had robust discussions in district and with community members, and informed by long hours of public testimony - some of that public testimony is featured in the text boxes below. Thanks to all who called in and testified and offered comment, we appreciate you working to help shape this draft budget. 

Economic Recovery

The economic impact of COVID-19 on individuals, families and businesses poses a complex and urgent challenge for our city. Unfortunately, while this crisis will impact all of us, we also know BIPOC communities bear a disproportionate impact in this economic downturn. We must name these disparities so we intentionally plan a recovery that will prioritize a more equitable and just local economy. This budget invests resources into our parks, streets, sidewalks, small businesses and public sector workers to create greater stability and a faster road to recovery. These investments not only support local workers and economic infrastructure, but also creates a faster recovery for small businesses and local economic activities that can restart our economy. That is what the data shows.

Recovering equitably from the COVID-19 recession means maintaining our workforce, providing supports for impacted businesses, and investing in infrastructure for essential workers to get to their jobs and people to get around their neighborhoods safely. A few examples include:
  • Restoring positions proposed for budgetary layoffs in HSD, OED, OPCD, SDOT, and SFD (CW-001-A-002) (Mosqueda)
  • Developing strategies to support farmers markets (OED-002-A-002) (Strauss)
  • And so much more can be found here


Staying home to stay healthy is the mandate, but that requires a place to call home. Seattle was already in it’s fifth year of an affordable housing and homelessness declared state of emergency prior to COVID-19. As we head into the second year of the public health crisis and compounding economic COVID crisis, the need to invest in housing is greater than ever. This budget prioritizes stability infrastructure and homelessness responses to prevent more vulnerable neighbors from falling into homelessness, helps get folks who are in unsafe congregate shelters and on the streets into safer non-congregate shelter and housing options, and supports more deeply affordable housing to prevent people from cycling back in to homelessness—is greater than ever. 

In this package, the Council prioritizes investments to keep people in their homes during this pandemic and beyond, respond to homelessness, and advance affordable housing for our community.
Homelessness Prevention
The economic impacts of COVID are adding additional pressures on households who were already on the brink of homelessness. The Council is adding funding to support elders, school-aged families, and renters stay in their homes and stay healthy. A few examples include:
  • The Home for Good program (OH-003-A-002) (González)
  • Homelessness Prevention for Families with School-Aged Children (HOM-015-A-001) (González)
  • Tenant Outreach, Education, Eviction Defense, and Counseling (SDCI-004-A-001) (Strauss)
Housing the Homeless

Seattle has been in a state of homelessness emergency for the last five years—an emergency that’s playing out in our streets in every neighborhood in Seattle and in the lives of thousands of our neighbors. The crisis of homelessness has become even more visible throughout 2020 as individuals are afraid to contract COVID in traditional shelter models, and as more individuals are falling into housing insecurity as they lose their jobs. Seattle saw its highest level of unemployment this summer that surpassed the great recession numbers.  This budget prioritizes our City’s responsibility to shelter those without a home, provides harm reduction strategies to improve outreach, and create greater long-term success with keeping folks off the street.  In this package, the Council makes investments in humane, effective, and immediate homelessness response. A few examples include:
  • Homeless Outreach and Provider Ecosystem  (HOPE Program) (HOM-005-B-001) (Morales)
  • Supporting 24 hour Operations at Basic Shelters (HOM-010-A-002) (Sawant)
  • Adding Tiny Home Villages (HOM-008-B-001, HOM-009-B-001) (Lewis/Sawant/Pedersen)
Investments in Affordable Housing

Immediate homelessness prevention and response must be paired with investments in permanently, deeply affordable housing for our community. To complement the new revenue for affordable housing passed by Council through the JumpStart Payroll Tax this year, our revised budget includes funding to move forward important long-term affordable housing proposals, coupled with community amenities. A few examples include:
  • Aurora Commons Redevelopment (OH-002-A-002) (Juarez)
  • Central District Shelter and Housing (OH-004-A-001) (Sawant)
  • Restored $30M from the Mercer Mega Block proceeds for the Strategic Investment Fund for community-driven property acquisitions to fight displacement (Sawant)
  • And so much more can be found here


Even as we act with urgency to respond to pressing health, housing, and economic recovery needs associated with COVID-19, we must not lose sight of the biggest threat to the health to our community and economy in front of us—climate change.

Green New Deal Investments

Now is not the time to slow down on our efforts to respond to climate change—which we know has a disproportionate impact on low-income households and BIPOC communities. We must act with urgency to shore up climate resilient communities and a greener economy. A few examples include:

Safe and Accessible Mobility Options
Equitable investments in safe infrastructure for frequent transit service and for people biking and walking on our busiest transportation corridors will help provide safe alternatives to driving, and improve our environment and overall health. Investments that support access to busses provide critical options for essential workers—who disproportionately rely on transit—to get to their jobs, and for families to get around their neighborhoods safely as we weather the impacts of COVID-19. By focusing Council’s budget priorities in long-underserved areas—such as the Lower Duwamish and South Seattle neighborhoods—these transportation assets will be key to our equitable economic recovery and are critical to continuing to combat climate change. Vehicles are the number one polluter of greenhouse gas emissions, so we must make alternatives accessible and reliable; simultaneous to our efforts to create additional housing options in our city. A few examples include:


The Seattle Fire Department (SFD) provides critical services that ensure public safety and protect the wellbeing of all our city residents. SFD members provide fire protection and prevention services, as well as technical rescue and emergency medical services, and they are trained  emergency medical technicians who provide basic emergency medical care to save lives and provide a warm-handoff to trusted community and regional partners. These first responders take care of us and it is our responsibility to ensure they also have the resources they need. Our investments include:

Hand Washing and Trash Clean-up

With this pandemic still underway, we need to increase hygiene services for all our community. In this budget we are increasing access to hygiene satiations and hand washing stations as well as expanding the Encampment Trash program to 13 additional sites across the city. A few examples include: Food Security Assistance

Before COVID-19 hit Seattle, 1 in 4 children were already food insecure – meaning they did not have enough food throughout the day. That affects a child’s ability to learn and grow into a healthy adult. Since COVID-19 began to impact our communities, we’ve seen a significant increased need for food security programs. A few examples include:
  • Expansion of the Fresh Bucks program (OSE-005-B-001) (Strauss)
  • Senior Congregate Meal programs (HSD-002-A-002) (Sawant)
  • A Statement of Legislative Intent asking to identify a potential location for a food bank in Belltown (FAS-001-A-001) (Lewis)
Harm Reduction for Addiction

This country is grappling with the opioid epidemic that has taken too many lives and caused tremendous harm to families and our community. Public Health – Seattle and King County (PHSKC) has some of the best models and partners to prevent overdoses, increase access to treatment, and provide harm reduction services to improve the health for people with substance use disorder and help people get clean. This budget - based on science, data and public health best-practices – treats addiction as the health crisis it is. A few examples include:
  • A Contract with Public Health – Seattle and King County (PHSKC) for drug user health services. (HSD-009-B-001) (Herbold)
  • Increased services and harm reduction programs at social service agencies that serve people who use drugs (HSD-050-B-001) (Herbold)

Supporting our Fire Fighters

The Seattle Fire Department (SFD) provides critical services that ensure public safety and protect the wellbeing of all our city residents. SFD members provide fire protection and prevention services, as well as technical rescue and emergency medical services, and they are trained  emergency medical technicians who provide basic emergency medical care to save lives and provide a warm-handoff to trusted community and regional partners. These first responders take care of us and it is our responsibility to ensure they also have the resources they need. A few examples include:
  • Expanding the Health One Unit (SFD-001-A-001) (Mosqueda)
  • Adding a Crisis Counselor that would provide trauma-informed counseling services and referrals (SFD-005-A-002) (Mosqueda)
  • Providing funding for life saving equipment like Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), Lucas Devices, and Ballistic Sets (SFD-002-A-002) (Herbold)
  • Adding a Consulting Nurse to assist with dispatching at the Seattle Fire Department’s 911 Fire Alarm Center (SFD-004-A-002) (Lewis)
  • Restore SFD recruit class and testing cuts (SFD-003-A-002) (Herbold)
  • And so much more can be found here

Community Safety

In this budget, we continue that careful balancing act of scaling down the police department budget while we make concurrent investments into community based alternatives. We are getting critical dollars out the door to bolster these alternatives and putting the decision-making process back into the hands of our residents. This Budget creates 3 important buckets that generate community safety:
Participatory Budgeting

Participatory Budgeting is a democratic process in which community members from across Seattle to identity was to investments in community strategies to meet peoples basic needs (housing, food, mental health care, domestic and gun violence prevention, education and job service), all of which reduce police interactions and entanglement with the criminal legal system. As we continue to do the essential work to reduce the need for a large police force with a community-centered safety response, the Participatory Budgeting process will help us create a balance of divestment and investment strategies that will begin to address years of over-investment into and reliance on punitive systems. 
  • Allocate funds from SPD cuts to a Participatory Budgeting process (FG-004-A-001) (Morales)
Scaling Up Community-Based Solutions

When there is a call for help, we want the response to match the need. For example, when someone is having a mental health crises, mental health workers, not armed police should be the response. These response systems and solutions already exist within our community. We must strengthen the existing community solutions all along the spectrum of need, meaning investments upstream to reduce the need for emergency response, immediate responses for those in crisis, and restorative responses if harm has occurred. A few examples include:
  • Scale up community based public safety programs/services (HSD-008-A-002) (Herbold)
  • Community based alternatives to addressing harm created by the criminal justice system (OCR-001-B-001) (Herbold)
  • Restorative justice pilot program (DEEL-002-A-002) (Morales)
  • Programming for Black girls and young women and Black queer and trans youth (DEEL-001-A-002) (González)
Divesting from SPD

As we continue to work to appropriately scale down the size of our police presence in community we are simultaneously scaling up the alternative community based solutions that have long existed and just needed increased capacity to meet the need. This year was the first time our Council did not vote to expand the budget, and in fact took steps to divest from the policing budget and invest in BIPOC communities. While there are many challenges, we are still on the path toward responsible right-sizing of our current approach as we scale up community investments. A few examples include:

What’s Next

We are two weeks until the budget finish line! This week, the next round of budget amendments—those that would amend our Council’s Draft Rebalanced Budget—to be considered by Council, or “Form Cs” will be submitted by councilmembers by this Thursday, November 12th. Form C’s are an opportunity for final amendments to budget legislation while it is still in the Select Budget Committee, and any proposal that increases appropriations must be self-balancing at this phase, either through a reduction in other appropriations or by new or increased revenues.

Forms Cs will be discussed next week in the Select Budget Committee on Wednesday, November 18th, and Thursday, November 19th. As always you can follow the discussion on the Seattle Channel. And please don’t hesitate to reach out with your feedback at
In solidarity,
Teresa Mosqueda

Seattle City Council Councilmember, Position 8
Copyright © 2020 Seattle City Council, All rights reserved.

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