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Federal Way children suffer with cut to service program | Diapers and formula in demand

As part of a Federal Way Community Club Network project, Dick Mayer helps load a donation of diapers to the Multi-Service Center in this March 2011 photo. - Andy Hobbs/The Mirror
As part of a Federal Way Community Club Network project, Dick Mayer helps load a donation of diapers to the Multi-Service Center in this March 2011 photo.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

For parents with limited incomes, the cost of providing the basic needs for young children have become daunting at best, and downright impossible at worst. A 23.2-ounce container of formula to feed a baby sells for about $21, and disposable diapers can cost a family $80 a month or more.

At issue is funding for the Multi-Service Center’s emergency feeding program, which is aimed at providing food and other needs for young children in Federal Way and South King County. Linda Purlee, emergency services director for MSC, made an impassioned plea to Federal Way City Council on Aug. 2.

Because of a 16.4 percent cut in federal funding to Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs, the emergency feeding program is at risk of not being able to provide some of the aforementioned items of early childhood for those who cannot afford them.

“CBDG was designed to buy baby food, formula and diapers for the youngest and most vulnerable in our population,” Purlee said. “14 percent of the people we serve are little tiny people who are under the age of 5.”

Purlee said that baby formula is one of the most difficult items to acquire because of the $20-$25 price for one can. Along with formula, toddler diapers are also difficult to come by for the MSC, again because of a high price.

“This is really hard on families with limited needs,” Purlee said.

Between the cuts in funding for CDBG and another federal grant program, the MSC is looking at a $33,000 hole to fill. Because of this, Purlee said the MSC is planning a diaper drive for sizes four, five and six, and also an infant formula drive this month and next.

The emergency feeding program was originally slated to get $8,692 through the CDBG plan. Because of that 16.4 percent reduction, funding for the program was going to be reduced to $6,141 based on city staff recommendations, which had cuts of about $2,500 applied to all programs in the public services portion of the CDBG plan.

Councilwoman Linda Kochmar took up Purlee’s cause, saying that the emergency feeding program should be protected and kept whole.

“Our human services mission has primary goals,” she said.

“One of the most primary of those goals is to provide food and shelter. I would like to propose we don’t take any cuts from the emergency feeding program. Restore that. And then your choice from where you want to take the rest. I believe that money should be put back. I don’t believe that should be cut at all.”

Councilman Jack Dovey felt the way it should be handled was to apply the 16.4 percent overall cut to each program to ensure equity and fairness.

“If we had a 16.4 percent reduction, why didn’t we take it equal across all of these instead of the way we did it? You gave an equal amount, but your percentages were higher to those with less money and lower to those that got more. It would seem to be a more equitable way is 16.4 percent across the board against all of them,” he said.

After this discussion, Kochmar proposed that an additional $2,551 be taken from the Orion Industries Rehabilitation Services program, with that money applied toward the emergency feeding program in order to keep its funding whole. The council agreed, and the proposed changes were approved unanimously.

 

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