Renewing King County’s commitment to veterans and helping the region's growing senior population
The voter-approved Veterans and Human Services Levy has connected hundreds of thousands of King County’s veterans and vulnerable individuals and families with housing, employment, treatment and medical and mental health care. The levy will expire on Dec. 31. Executive Constantine’s proposal to replace the levy will increase the county’s capacity to serve veterans and vulnerable populations, and add new services to help the region’s rapidly growing senior population.
King County Executive Dow Constantine today announced an initiative to strengthen the county’s capacity to connect veterans to opportunity, help veterans, seniors, and vulnerable populations gain or maintain affordable housing, and add new services to help the region's rapidly growing senior population.
If approved by voters in November, the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy will replace the existing levy, which will expire Dec. 31. The current levy – which King County voters overwhelmingly renewed in 2011 – has connected hundreds of thousands of veterans, active service members and vulnerable populations to housing, employment and treatment since it was first approved in 2005.
“It is an honor for us to serve the men and women who have served our country. When asked, King County voters have enthusiastically agreed. This levy renewal focuses on the health and welfare of veterans and others in need. It ensures that we follow best practices and support programs that get the results we all want,” said Executive Constantine. “Demographic trends are clear: our region is aging. By helping people remain in good health and active in the community, we can ensure that all residents enjoy their lives to the fullest.”
The rate would be 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. For the owner of an average home in King County – currently about $450,000 – that would mean an increase of about $3 per month, going from $1.50 per month to $4.50 per month.
The levy is on track to provide services to more than 200,000 clients since it was renewed in 2011. Since 2006, it has contributed capital to the creation of more than 2,000 units of affordable housing. Since 2012, an average of 780 clients were stabilized in programs each year, reducing the number of emergency room visits and jail bookings, avoiding $7 million in costs.
The next version of the levy will continue to constantly evaluate each program to ensure it’s delivering the desired outcomes, and results will continue to be posted online to continue transparency and accountability. There will be a competitive process to determine which service providers receive funding under the new levy, just as there was when the levy was created.
A plan to exempt lower-income households of seniors and disabled veterans
As part of the levy package, Executive Constantine and King County Assessor John Arthur Wilson will ask the Legislature to allow local governments to exempt lower-income households of seniors, people who are retired due to disability, or veterans who have a total disability rating.
Rep. Pat Sullivan will introduce a bill in the Legislature. Until the Legislature acts, King County will offer full rebates to qualified seniors and people with disabilities.
Executive Constantine and Assessor Wilson will also intensify efforts to enroll eligible seniors in available property tax exemption and deferral programs.
“We want to ensure King County is a place we can all afford to call home,” said Assessor Wilson. “This measure allows us to invest in those who need it the most while protecting low-income seniors. I am proud to have worked with the Executive and local leaders to improve the number of applications to the low income senior exemption program by over 50 percent. We will continue to work together to protect the very people that helped build our community.”
Serving those who served our country
No other county in the United States has a voter-approved levy of the same scale or scope that is dedicated to serving veterans, active service members and their families. For more than a decade, King County has helped veterans succeed by connecting them with housing, employment and treatment.
Veterans embody unique potential to contribute to our communities, but for too many veterans, the same experiences that equip them with so much potential also raise barriers to realizing that potential.
The number of veterans who are homeless or living below the federal poverty level is increasing. Translating military service experience into private-sector job applications can be difficult. Veterans who have served since they were 18 return home without the credit and rental history necessary to find housing in a competitive market.
Because military service often requires sacrifices from whole families, their families deserve support, too. Veterans of recent conflicts make up a smaller share of the total population, exposing them and their families to isolation from their broader community after they complete their military service.
The Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy will strengthen King County’s commitment to supporting veterans as they rejoin their families and our region, so they can overcome the barriers standing in the way of their long-term success.
For example, a program administered by King County has helped participating veterans increase their average annual income from $12,327 to $40,290.
The next version of the levy will draw upon a decade of community experience to continue programs that get results, bring programs to scale, and develop innovative new strategies to support veterans in King County.
Helping the most vulnerable get back on their feet
The levy will continue to help individuals and families who are most vulnerable, including those who are on the brink of homelessness and survivors of domestic violence.
It will still fund preventative services that can invest early to keep people housed instead of reacting to greater financial and human cost after individuals and families become homeless. For example, it can help survivors of domestic violence find a permanent place to live after they have fled a dangerous situation.
It will continue to fund outreach programs that connect people who are homeless to shelter and other services. Levy-funded outreach services connect more than 3,000 people to housing and services each year. The new levy will build upon these services to increase access to behavioral health treatment, which can prevent someone from being homeless.
Supporting the generation that laid the foundation for the prosperity we enjoy today
Between 2010 and 2030, the number of seniors in King County will have nearly doubled to 400,000 people – accounting more than 18 percent of the total population. In 2030 – just 13 years from now – the first members of Generation X will retire.
The region’s senior population is increasing at the same time that federal and philanthropic funding for senior services is decreasing. For seniors – many of whom live on fixed incomes – growing costs of living and declining funding combine to threaten their ability to remain in King County.
The next version of the levy will increase investments in programs that keep seniors connected to the communities they helped build. It will reduce the number of seniors who are displaced by investing in affordable housing and programs that prevent seniors from becoming isolated.
Measuring performance and focusing on outcomes
King County’s Department of Community and Human Services will continue to produce annual and mid-year performance reports that show how each activity funded by the levy performs against its goals. The 2017 Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy will focus even more on outcomes.
Executive Constantine proposed that the next version of the levy adopt the same outcomes framework – known as Results Based Accountability – that King County uses for Best Starts for Kids and the Mental Illness and Drug Dependency Tax. That will make it possible for King County to show how each of its health and human services initiatives improve residents’ quality of life and measure their community-wide impacts.
- VIDEO: An overview of the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy
- See how the current Veterans and Human Services Levy is delivering results
- Track the annual progress of the Veterans and Human Services Levy
- DOWNLOAD: Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy fact sheet PDF
It is an honor for us to serve the men and women who have served our country. When asked, King County voters have enthusiastically agreed. This levy renewal focuses on the health and welfare of veterans and others in need. It ensures that we follow best practices and support programs that get the results we all want. Demographic trends are clear: our region is aging. By helping people remain in good health and active in the community, we can ensure that all residents enjoy their lives to the fullest.
I’m excited to begin the work of preparing the Veterans, Senior, and Human Services Levy to voters this fall. Our current VHSL has successfully provided a path to stability, safety, and security to thousands of our neighbors. I invite and challenge everyone in King County to reach out to the Council to tell us what is important to you and your community, so that we can create a proposal that meets the needs of all of our residents.
I'm proud of the continued commitment the voters of King County have shown to the men, women and families receiving services through programs funded by the Veteran's and Human Services levy. I am also grateful the proposal sent by the Executive to the Council will now include programs to aid the growing number of seniors in King County. I will work diligently with my colleagues to be certain this new levy continues to build on previous successes and expands to have even greater positive impact on our communities.
We want to ensure King County is a place we can all afford to call home. This measure allows us to invest in those who need it the most while protecting low income seniors. I am proud to have worked with the Executive and local leaders to improve the number of applications to the low income senior exemption program by over 50 percent. We will continue to work together to protect the very people that helped build our community.
This proposal for the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy is our chance to ensure that King County is a place where seniors can age with dignity instead of aging into poverty. Seniors have so much to offer our community — we know what works to keep seniors engaged and active, and this is our opportunity to make the smart investments in effective programs that will help our seniors remain in the communities they’ve helped create.
I can say from being part of a program that was funded by the levy, it is making a difference in people’s lives. Providing programs that can keep someone from hitting rock bottom is paramount to a veteran’s success in their transition to civilian life. I fully believe that if we make an impact in a veteran’s life today, and get them the skills needed to be employed and successful, we can hopefully avoid the pitfalls that previous generations of veterans have faced. If we step in now and help with that transition we avoid having to help when times are much harder for them.
At YWCA, we believe that everyone should be able to live in safe, stable housing and that every person should be able to reach their full potential. The Veterans and Human Services Levy is a key tool to address the needs of people across King County who are experiencing homelessness or struggling to remain housed. It has a proven track record of funding programs that connect vulnerable people to services that help them live healthy, productive and meaningful lives.
The Veterans & Human Services Levy has helped elevate the quality of life of aging Filipino World War II veterans, their widows, and first-generation immigrant families as they are transplanted into a new and strange environment from half-way across the world. Through counseling, case management and dedicated social work, the 43-year old nonprofit service organization, International Drop-In Center, continues to offer needed assistance to minority elders and family groups in South King County. Such programs like the Program to Encourage Active & Rewarding Life for Seniors make possible the quick and productive assimilation of these families into the community where they can work for each other's well-being.
It is again time to turn to the voters of King County to ask their support for a Levy that has a proven record of providing the needed programs that empower and improve the lives of veterans, their families and residents of King County.
The King County Veterans and Human Services Levy is a fine example of the power of supporting and empowering the citizens of King County who can benefit from the funding of invaluable programs and services accessed by struggling families and veterans. King County should be proud to be a leader across the country, setting an example of the positive outcomes that our critical Veterans and Human Services Levy has demonstrated.
The Veterans and Human Services Levy’s track record of success and commitment to strong performance makes it a standard bearer for good public investment. As an emergency manager in my day job, I see how balancing prevention and mitigation investment with crisis response saves public funds, but even more importantly, lives. By bringing the compassionate commitment of King County residents together with strong citizen oversight and program staff who are flexible and innovative, renewing and fortifying this investment is the right way to go. As growth in King County continues to bring opportunity for some, the VHSL levy helps improve life for everyone in our community. By connecting residents with basic services and employment opportunities before, during, and after crisis, otherwise left-behind community members improve self-sufficiency and add to the creativity and diversity of our county community.
Over the years the Veterans and Human Services Levy has provided additional funding for housing, health and human services for veterans, their families, and others in need of assistance. It is not a Veterans-only levy – it provides funding for domestic abuse, for mental health and substance abuse programs, for work training programs, after school programs, homeless services and much more. Renewal of the Veterans and Human Services Levy means we can continue to support King County’s Veterans, their families and others who need our help.
For more information, contact:
Chad Lewis, Executive Office, 206-263-1250