Shelters, housing vouchers and outreach programs for more than 1,000 homeless residents in Yakima County could face cuts next year after a state Senate committee didn’t vote on a bill to make a funding source permanent.
House Bill 2368, which would make permanent a $40 fee assessed most real estate sales, appears unlikely to pass this session after failing to clear a Friday deadline for most bills to make it out of committee. The fees fund a wide variety of programs serving the homeless.
Without legislative action, the fee will drop to $30 in mid-2015 and to $10 from 2017 onward. The reductions would go into effect July 1, 2015, resulting in an estimated local cut in funding of $114,000 the first year, doubling the following year and growing even greater by 2017.
The Homeless Network of Yakima County has a budget of $2.86 million.
“By not passing it this year, there’s no way communities can guarantee to continue these programs,” Yakima County homeless and housing programs manager Tim Sullivan said. “There will be layoffs, people with vouchers will lose their housing.” The network is a collaborative effort between government and nonprofit entities, although the funding is received and managed through the Yakima County Department of Human Services. Last year, the network helped 1,386 individuals in Yakima County, Sullivan said.
In Yakima County, the money generated by the fee also funds the Homeless Point In Time Survey, which has been conducted every year since 2006 and showed a 30 percent drop in homelessness in the county since then. Sullivan said the cuts could reverse this trend.
The bill that would have made the $40 fee permanent by eliminating a sunset clause that had already passed the House and was expected to receive a vote in the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Housing & Insurance. However, committee co-chair Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, abruptly adjourned Friday’s meeting, to the surprise of both Democrats and Republicans on the committee who had worked to reach an agreement on the bill.
The exchange wasn’t caught on camera, but Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, and two Senate Democrats admonished Angel for closing the meeting immediately after she gaveled it to a close, arguing they had the votes to pass it. Homeless advocates later released an audio recording of the exchange to the media.
“That is abrupt and very disappointing,” Benton said. “We worked very hard on this affordable housing bill.”
Angel replied that Democrats and Republicans had not come to an agreement on the legislation.
“All parties are not in agreement, and therefore I have adjourned the meeting,” she said.
The legislative session ends March 13.