Veterans, Seniors & Human Services Levy
Ensuring that Veterans, Seniors and Resilient Communities are connected and supported across the region.
Since 2006, the King County Veterans & Human Services Levy has funded a wide range of programs that connect veterans, military service members and their families, as well as individuals and families in need with affordable housing, employment, behavioral health treatment, and other services. In 2017, voters approved the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy, adding funding for services to King County seniors and their families. The current levy expires in December 2023.
Since 2018, the levy has:
- Served more than 27,000 veterans, servicemembers and their families with fewer eligibility barriers than many federal programs
- Contributed to a 40% reduction in veteran homelessness
- Helped more than 260 veterans, servicemembers, and family members access more than 15,000 mental health counseling sessions
- Built 234 units of affordable housing for veterans and their families
- Funded 39 senior centers across the county
- Served more than 100,000 seniors through expanded senior programming
- Launched DVHopeline, a countywide, 24-hour multi-lingual and multimodal domestic violence hotline, that received 16,000 calls or texts and referred nearly 7,000 of those callers to additional support
- Funded mobile advocacy services for more than 1,200 survivors of gender-based violence
- Helped build more than 1,000 units of affordable housing and 198 new shelter beds
- Funded 55 agencies with 675 bonuses
Frequently asked questions about VSHSL renewal
As a renewal, the proposal continues the current VSHSL programs and strategies that have proven effective, rather than creating multiple new service strategies. The VSHSL renewal builds on nearly two decades of previous work and support ongoing efforts to ensure veterans, seniors, and resilient communities are connected and supported across the region.
There are some areas of expansion to existing programs and strategies that are funded today:
Supporting the nation’s strongest local veterans program: The levy sustains and expands innovative partnerships and programming, comprehensive case management, and behavioral health counseling for veterans and their families and caregivers. This includes operation of the two King County Veterans Program (KCVP) sites at Northgate and Tukwila and providing mental health counseling to veterans, servicemembers and their families.
Doubling funding for senior centers: The levy reinforces senior services that made a difference in the pandemic, strengthen and sustain senior center programming to provide social connection, and invest in green energy improvements like heat pumps, solar panels, and air filtration that help senior centers reduce their carbon footprint, cut utility bills, and provide refuge in extreme weather.
Deepening investments in critical workforce: The region’s vibrancy requires an effective and sustainable human services workforce that can prevent crises and help solve them in real time. The Levy plays a critical role in investing in the people who support those in need, make our communities a place where people can thrive, and ensuring human services are accessible, effective, and equitable.
The VSHSL defines:
Veterans, Military Servicemembers, and their Respective Families: Any person who has served or is serving as either an active duty, national guard member or a reservist member of the United States armed forces, regardless of discharge type, and members of their family.
Seniors and their Caregivers: Any person who is at least 55 years old or individuals providing care for a senior who is a family member or someone with whom they have an ongoing personal relationship independent of their caregiver roles.
Resilient Communities: Communities susceptible to reduced health, housing, financial, or social stability outcomes due to systemic or historical exposure to trauma, violence, poverty, isolation, bias, racism, stigma, discrimination, disability, or chronic illness. Some examples include communities of color; immigrant and refugee communities; persons with disabilities; survivors of domestic violence and other gender-based violence; persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex or asexual; and survivors of human trafficking.
The VSHSL funding distribution across communities allocates 30% for veterans, military servicemembers, and their respective families; 30% for seniors and their caregivers; and 30% for resilient communities. The remaining 10% is allocated to Regional Impact Initiatives, which invests in regional health and human services for issues that affect all three priority populations.
Within these buckets, the Levy would make investments to:
Fund permanent supportive housing, including housing specifically for veterans
Keep reducing veteran homelessness
Expand investments in the human services workforce
Double current funding for senior centers
Maintain access to counseling and mental health supports for veterans and seniors
Deepen community-centered programming for survivors of gender-based violence
Community feedback is important to addressing community need, breaking down barriers to equity and overall achieving success. Many voices informed planning for a renewed levy, including community members, partners, King County staff and King County elected officials. The Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) hosted a variety of community engagement activities in 2022 including: a series of community meetings called Community Conversations, focus groups/listening sessions, and informational presentations. A total of 20 community conversations were held across each of King County’s nine county council districts, along with 20 focus groups and 12 informational presentations to gather feedback from community organizations, providers, contractors, and advocacy groups on their current experience with the VSHSL.
Clear themes emerged:
The VSHSL is a uniquely flexible funding source. The VSHSL’s flexibility was frequently described as a strength, from providing flexible financial assistance to the ability to work with partners in 2020 to make programming adjustments to be more responsive to emergent community needs at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The VSHSL expands organizations’ impact in the community. The addition of VSHSL funds into an organization’s budget allows services to have a greater impact, serving people and extending service to residents and communities who might not otherwise have access.
Additional resources are needed to attract and retain qualified staff. VSHSL-contracted providers and other human service organizations conveyed their direct experiences with the growing need for services beyond their current capacities. Participants applauded King County’s partnership with 501 Commons to analyze wages and benefits in the nonprofit sector through the King County Nonprofit Wage and Benefits Survey, as well as analyze other factors that contribute to employee recruitment retention and satisfaction.
The VSHSL proposal maintains the baseline of current programming with an understanding that we must build upon our efforts and sustain the foundation of human services here in King County. Renewal of the Levy means stronger programming, deeper investments in communities often overlooked, and higher coordination among nation-leading service providers for veterans and seniors. The VSHSL builds on previous investments by committing to the true cost of services, including equitable workforce wages and inflation in order to sustain this critically important work.
The region’s vibrancy requires an effective and sustainable human services workforce that can prevent crises and help solve them in real time. The Levy plays a critical role in investing in the people who support those in need, make our communities a place where people can thrive, and ensuring human services are accessible, effective, and equitable.
Yes, Washington State law provides two tax benefit programs for senior citizens and people with disabilities: property tax exemptions and property tax referrals. Seniors, persons with disabilities, and disabled veterans may qualify for a reduction in property taxes if they meet the eligibility requirements of age 61 or older or disability status with an income below the limit threshold of $58,423.
To learn more about eligibility requirements visit: https://kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor/TaxRelief.aspx
To apply for a property tax exemption visit: https://senior-exemption.kingcounty.gov/intro
The VSHSL advanced equity in the following ways:
Partnered with organizations and programming that are community led, including many small organizations that had never partnered with government before. Since 2018, the VSHSL has funded more than 300 programs. Led by more than 150 community-based organizations, a third of which are small organizations.
Across many of its strategies, the VSHSL intentionally funded providers that represent and are best able to serve their communities for strategies that specifically seek to connect marginalized communities to services and programs for which they historically not been able to successfully access funding.
The Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence’s Mapping Prevention 2020 research, made possible through VSHSL funding, created and shared community data to better understand how communities can prevent domestic, sexual and family violence outside of systems of policing and punishment. The data showed that gender-based violence (GBV) prevention services must be informed by an intersectional understanding of the ways that poverty and racism affect health and well-being outcomes for all individuals, particularly those experiencing violence and GBV specifically.
The Levy also allowed senior centers to dedicate time and resources towards equity training for their staff and volunteers.
The VSHSL started from the premise of finding those veterans that face the most barriers due to race, ethnicity, and lived experience, then intentionally funded specially trained pathfinders that are embedded within culturally- and community-based organizations that are recognized community connection points for women veterans, transgender veterans, veterans of color, veteran families, Native American veterans, and unsheltered veterans. As a result, the VSHSL has been able to locate and serve more of these specific populations of veterans. Veterans have become increasingly willing to disclose their veteran status and access services knowing they have pathfinders at their side.
Partnered with community to help inform the development of funding opportunities.
The Crisis Care Centers initiative, recently passed by voters, will create a regional network of five crisis care centers, restore residential treatment beds, and invest in a robust behavioral health workforce.
The VSHSL is a separate property tax levy that funds a wide range of programs that connect veterans, military servicemembers and their families, as well as individuals and families in need with affordable housing, employment, behavioral health support to prevent crises, and other services. The VSHSL has been a source of programming and services in King County’s communities since 2005.