South Sound’s housing and social service providers were dealt a rough blow this week: Thurston County HOME Consortium expects to have $800,000 less for its programs than last year.
“Regardless of how you slice it, it’s certainly going to be painful,” said Schelli Slaughter, executive director of the Family Support Center, which provides emergency shelter, counseling and other support for homeless families. “These cuts are deep enough. It’s going to be a significant and noticeable impact.”
Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela said the drop in funding is due to a significant decrease in document fees. The county auditor’s office collects a state-mandated fee on recorded documents, including marriage licenses and real estate deeds, according to Gary Aden, a program manager for Thurston County Public Health and Social Services.
Those funds are distributed to local homeless and social service projects through the eight-member HOME Consortium, which is made up of Valenzuela and elected officials from the cities of Yelm, Tumwater, Olympia, Tenino, Lacey, Bucoda and Rainier.
“Those revenues have dropped precipitously due primarily to the fact that interest rates have risen so people are not refinancing loans at the same rate,” Valenzuela said. “ It’s actually terrible news. We didn’t have adequate funds to begin with to try and fund these proposals.”
Aden said other counties are dealing with the same situation due to the sluggish housing market.
“It’s not just us, it’s statewide,” he said.
Several representatives from the county’s homeless providers, known as the HOME Citizens Advisory Committee, were scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the cuts, Slaughter said.
“I think all of the providers are kind of reeling from the news,” she said. “We knew there were going to be some cuts. We didn’t know what they would look like.”
After the cut, HOME Consortium will have $1.01 million in grants available in September, Aden said.
In 2013, it passed out $1.8 million in grants, up from $1.4 million in 2012. Also in 2013, HOME Consortium changed its funding cycle and granted a second round of projects totaling $1.06 million, Aden said.
The HOME Consortium will meet in about a month to discuss the cuts again, Valenzuela said. Meantime, they’re asking homeless-service organizations to help come up with a plan on how to address the cuts.
“We’re taking the month for people to have conversations and let them come up with ways to contend with the $800,000,” Valenzuela said. “We’re all in this together. This is a terrible problem, and we need to think of a solution together.”
For example, some of the agencies might be able to take cuts from current-year projects, Valenzuela said.
Meantime, Slaughter said her agency is bracing for a worst-case scenario.
“We’re already thinking of how many staff positions we’re going to have to cut — how many less families we’re going to serve,” she said.