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Human services: Demand stretches dollars in Federal Way
With no end in sight to the local and national economic crises, families are seeking help from government agencies and programs in greater numbers.
In Federal Way, the Department of Human Services provides aid and relief to those who find themselves in less than desirable circumstances. From dental care to clothing to food to child care, the department and its partnering agencies and programs are a vital lifeline for some of Federal Way’s most disadvantaged residents.
The department has approximately $581,185 a year to spend, according to technician Denise Catalano. That $581,185 is made up of approximately $430,000 from the human services general fund, while the remainder comes from $65,185 in Community Block Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.
Catalano also noted that the city council approved a one-time injection of $86,000 into the general fund for 2011-12.
The situation for 2012 is still hazy, as local agencies wait for a budget to come down from the federal government, Catalano said during a Sept. 20 presentation to the Federal Way City Council.
“2012 funding is depending on the 2012 federal budget, and we won’t know what that will be until sometime next year,” she said.
Catalano shared statistics from a few of the agencies funded by human services. According to Catalano, Catholic Community Services saw a 26 percent increase in referrals from South King County in the first five months of 2011. The Multi-Service Center (MSC) Food Bank experienced a 37 percent increase in serving children ages 2 and younger during the second quarter of 2011, compared to 2010. Also, the number of clients ages 55 and older being served by the MSC Food Bank increased 7 percent. The Senior Meals on Wheels is also serving 10 percent more clients than expected this year, Catalano noted.
Catalano outlined how the money is divvied up for human services. The general fund allocates money to 41 programs in 29 different agencies, she said, while the CDBG money funds programs for five different agencies.
Outside of those increased numbers, Catalano said agencies funded by human services are seeing clients who need to be helped by multiple agencies.
“The Children’s Home Society told us that in addition to their Early Head Start program, they have food in their facility, they have diapers they give out, and all kinds of information and referrals,” she said. “Ways to help them get through the red tape of DSHS. Everything these families need, they try to help them with.”
Catalano said senior staff at the Department of Human Services have been visiting with the various agencies lately, to get a sense of what’s needed going forward.
“The Human Services staff have been visiting all of our funded agencies this year, to introduce ourselves and to get to know their needs better,” she said. “They have a couple of messages…the first is an increased demand for services, which is not a surprise with the state of the economy these days.”
Catalano did note that a new requirement the city’s Department of Human Services will implement next year is a stricter bookkeeping policy on the agencies it funds.
“It’s important we have accountability for the city and how the funds are spent. Starting next year, we’re going to require that each agency submit their audited financial statement. It’s just backup that the funds are being spent the way they should be,” she said.
Catalano said money from the Human Services Commission is allocated in four basic strategies: basic needs receives 40 percent of funds; individual and community safety receive 21 percent; special needs populations get 26 percent; and low-income families with children receive 13 percent.