On Tuesday, June 13, Mayor Durkan transmitted to Council the community-led Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force’s recommendations for $30 million in investments to improve outcomes for Seattle’s Black, Indigenous and people of color communities. The Office of Economic Development worked closely with the Task Force to support the development of recommendations and will help implement programs aimed at investing in economic equity, including access to capital for small and micro business, financial and technical assistance, and pathways to health careers.
Mayor Jenny A. Durkan transmitted $30 million in investments recommended by the Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force (ECITF) to improve disparate outcomes for Seattle’s Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities. The investments begin to correct disparities caused by government-sanctioned and racist policies, which negatively affect the Black and Indigenous communities at disproportionate rates. The legislation was developed after Task Force members and city departments developed implementation plans for each recommended strategy.
In 2020, Mayor Durkan requested that the City, for the first time, build the budget around $100 million in investments in BIPOC communities. The Mayor used all of the City’s resources to balance the budget during a historic shortfall, including: $73 million from the City’s emergency reserves, $20 million in reductions to the Seattle Police Department, a wage freeze for non-represented employees, redirecting voter-approved levy dollars to support basic city operations, federal relief assistance, and new City revenues. The Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force is one element of the overall $100 million investment.
“Today, Seattle is delivering on its commitment to address generational wrongs that have had a devastating impact on communities of color. These impactful community leaders have fought for justice within their communities, volunteered their time, and expertise to make recommendations that are the first step towards righting past wrongs. The best ideas come from the community, and their work underscores that fact. By working together, they’ve shown what’s possible when the government steps out of the way so that community can step forward with real solutions. I look forward to seeing these investments serving the urgent needs of communities that have for far too long been grossly under-funded.”
“The ECI Task Force focused on targeting investments to the most significant and pervasive systemic challenges facing communities of color in our city. Their recommendations focus on equity in business development, education, homeownership and healthcare. I applaud the members of the task force for their diligence and determination to find the best path to improve outcomes for generations to come,” said Councilmember Debora Juarez ex-officio Task Force member.
The Task Force developed nine recommendations with 18 strategies to strengthen communities of color so that they can thrive. The recommendations fall under the following four pillars:
$7.5 Million – Building Opportunity through Small Business Support
- Provide Equitable Small and Micro Business Capital
- Offer Small Business Technical Assistance on Financial Health, Digital Tools, and Construction Support
$7.5 Million – Developing Diverse and Culturally Competent Educators and Education Opportunities
- Fund Culturally Supportive Re-entry Programs for Formerly Incarcerated BIPOC
- Support Equity in Education with Students
- Provide Cultural Education for BIPOC youth
$8.8 Million – Accessing Affordable Housing, Land Acquisition and Generational Wealth
- Establish a Generational Wealth Education Program and Resource Portal
- Identify Housing Strategies for Low- and Middle-Income Apprentices and Pre-Apprentices
- Broaden Priority Hire and WMBE Support
- Create Homeownership Supports and Development Opportunities
- Study the Feasibility of a Lease to Own Program
- Provide Ownership Retention Resources for BIPOC Families to Remain in Their Homes
$6.2 Million – Improving Positive Health Outcomes
- Provide Holistic Culturally Responsive & Inclusive Healthcare
- Improve Access to Culturally Responsive & Inclusive Healthcare
- Sustain a Healthy Food Fund for Community-Led Projects Focused on Food Security
- Increase Farm to Table Access with a BIPOC Emphasis
- Support an Environmental Justice Fund for Community-Led Projects
- Address Barriers to BIPOC Professionals Entering the Healthcare Workforce
- Enhance Youth Career Exploration in the Healthcare Industry
Recognizing it will take years of investment to address generations of disinvestment, Mayor Durkan has committed to including another $100 million in her proposed 2022 budget to further address systemic inequities facing BIPOC communities.
“As we closely examined generational wealth, we found that many BIPOC communities not only don’t have access to housing, but they also don’t have access to the same financial support that many White-led businesses do. We wanted to create opportunities for BIPOC business owners to work with colleagues who resemble those they serve. Through Technical Assistance, we are providing a deeper level of support while they are at the table applying for funding, helping them analyze how much they need, and assist in completing applications,” said Task Force member Donna Moodie, owner of Marjorie. “We can invite them to turn a loan into a forgivable loan simply by attending Technical Assistance classes that would improve their business acumen. This is a win-win create esteemed people in our communities whose business behavior and success can be modeled.”
“As housing prices continue to rise across Seattle, the Task Force used this opportunity to recommend steps to help address this crisis. Strategies like developing a lease to purchase program will help shift the mindset away from the thought that living in Seattle means that you can’t own. But we also took a broader approach because we know that access to good jobs and access to apprenticeships are also strategies to keep people housed,” said Task Force member Sharon Williams, Executive Director of CD Forum. “The City must also take an active role in developing educational programs that encourage longer-term strategies for families and individuals to create generational wealth. It is our hope that with these recommendations, over time, we will see more people on the path to ownership and remaining stably housed within our City.”
From December 2020 to June 2021, the Task Force of 26 community leaders met weekly for more than 60 cumulative hours in over 30 meetings. With decades of lived experience and professional expertise, the Task Force developed recommendations using the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) Equitable Development Community Indicators Report as background; tapping into the ingenuity of the Innovation Advisory Council by working with a team of Microsoft data scientists to further disaggregate race-based data within the report; and by taking a comprehensive look at current City investments into BIPOC communities, with an eye towards developing programs to fill gaps within the system and strengthening programs with proven success.
Throughout April, and due to COVID-19 safety precautions, the task force facilitator, The Profitable NonProfit hosted a series of virtual stakeholder meetings inviting rank and file community members, peer organizations, business owners, and community-based organization leadership to ensure recommendations mirrored community needs and priorities.
Following the announcement of their recommendations, the Task Force began convening weekly with City departments to help inform on the creation of implementation strategies that can be quickly launched so that millions in investments will begin landing in the community by the end of 2021. Task Force members thought deeply about systemic barriers to BIPOC organizations in accessing City funds and worked with the City to define ways to lower barriers that have blocked communities of color in the Requests for Proposals (RFP) process. Some of the strategies include:
- Being intentional about who the investments were targeting by giving priority to organizations led by people of color, and serving communities furthest from equity.
- Providing language access to reduce language barriers for potential applicants.
- Including technical support for prospective applicants and continued support throughout the process.
- Launching a simplified low-barrier RFP specifically targeting small organizations.
After seven weeks of collaboration and discussion with the Task Force, eight departments developed implementation strategies based on Task Force recommendations, including the Department of Early Education and Learning; Department of Finance and Administrative Services; Department of Neighborhoods; Human Services Department; Office of Arts and Culture; Office of Economic Development; Office of Housing; and the Office of Sustainability and Environment.
The $30 million investment was allocated in the 2021 budget, however, the funding is currently under Council proviso, meaning that recommendations cannot be implemented and money disbursed to the community until the proviso is lifted. The Task Force will present their spend plan with 18 investment strategies to the Seattle City Council Finance and Housing Committee on Tuesday, July 20 at 9:30 a.m. and request that the legislation is passed on to the full Council to lift the proviso. With swift Council action, City departments expect to begin developing RFP’s in the coming weeks with a surge of investments landing in the community by the end of 2021.
Task Force members are in ongoing discussions with the City on continued engagement to ensure accountability and tracking of investment outcomes. Further, the City of Seattle recently launched a disparity study to identify and remove inequities in the City’s soliciting and procuring of contracts and awarding of public funds. For more information on the Equitable Communities Initiative visit: seattle.gov/equitable-communities-initiative.