Agencies plead for money from Federal Way's overstretched human services program

A pregnancy counseling service and an organization for sexual assault victims are pleading with Federal Way for money.

Federal Way is seeing an increase in requests for grant funding — while at the same time city, state, and federal funding amounts are decreasing.

Grants for the city's Human Services General Fund grant programs were the topic of discussion during the Aug. 14 meeting of the Parks, Recreation, Human Services and Public Safety Committee.

Representatives from two agencies, the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC) and Pregnancy Aid-South King County, made pleas to the Human Services Commission and city council members for grant money.

Sexual assault victims

Mary Ellen Stone, executive director of KCSARC, touched on the number of Federal Way residents they've seen pass through their doors in the first half of 2012.

"There were 115 victims of sexual assault (in Federal Way) in the first six months of 2012," Stone said. "That's a lot of people. Almost 80 percent of them are children and youth. That's a lot of families."

Stone said KCSARC is the only organization of its kind to provide these types of services for victims.

"If you think about our services in terms of health care…There are times you want a generalist, and there are times you want a specialist," Stone said. "We're the only organization that offers specific therapy for PTSD. We're the only ones that provide services for the families."

The Human Services Commission had decided to reduce funding to KCSARC by $5,000 — from $30,000 last year to $25,000 for 2013-14. According to Stone, that loss of $5,000 would translate to about 50 man-hours.

Pregnancy Aid

Pat Noecker, representing Pregnancy Aid-South King County, had a similar argument to make for funding. She said relatively sizable numbers of Federal Way residents seek help from her non-profit pro-life organization.

"We have 252 families from Federal Way coming to Pregnancy Aid. They come as much as once a month, and they take what they need," Noecker said. "We need your help, and since you take up about a quarter of the people who come into Pregnancy Aid daily, we need some help from you."

Noecker noted that the Pregnancy Aid organization has seven locations throughout Western Washington, including offices in Auburn and Kent. Unfortunately for Federal Way residents, those offices in Auburn and Kent only serve residents of those two cities. Because of this, Federal Way residents find their way to her office more often than not.

Commission's reduced funding

Ron Secreto, the chair for the Human Services Committee, addressed both Stone and Noecker's concerns. He said that the number of requests for funding for 2013-14 was higher than he has ever remembered it being.

"We had three teams of commissioners, each taking one-third of the 76 applications that we had, which I think is the most we've ever had," he said, describing the commission's rating system for applicants. "It's very difficult to decide who is going to be on that funding list."

Secreto said the commission also prioritizes applicants by their proximity to Federal Way, and also on what could best be described as tenure.

"With the reduced amount of money we had, we tried to look first at agencies that are in Federal Way, or in very close proximity, that are serving the most Federal Way people. And ones that had been with us for a long period of time that we know are doing the job and can do the job," Secreto explained.

There were two total amounts the commission worked with for the grant funding — one figure of $516,000 and the other figure being $430,000.

The difference comes in the commission's uncertainty on whether the city council will maintain the funding level from last year ($516,000) or scale it back to what it had been before 2012 ($430,000).

The total pot of money is spread out over four "strategies" previously determined by the council, with the greatest emphasis being placed on Strategy One, which focuses on "basic human services needs through the funding of emergency services."

The council had previously mandated that at least 37 percent of the total amount must go toward Strategy One. For the 2013-14 recommendation, the Human Services Commission had put 45 percent of all funding toward Strategy One.

What to cut?

While there was not much help for either Stone or Noecker forthcoming, council member Roger Freeman did find one agency he thought could use less funding: The King County Bar Association. That group was slated for $6,500 from the city.

"I can tell you right now who doesn't need your money is the King County Bar Association. They have wonderful fundraisers that lawyers go to, and charge a lot of money to donate," Freeman, a lawyer himself, said with humor in his voice. "I'm not sure what they said to come to Federal Way and say, 'We need your money.'"

City staff explained to Freeman that the Bar Association had made similar arguments as Stone and Noecker, with the lawyers indicating that a large number of Federal Way residents take advantage of the Bar's pro-bono services.

That argument aside, Freeman was able to convince his fellow council members and the commission members present to take $1,500 off the funding request from the Bar. The recommendations were sent back to the Human Services Commission so the fate of that $1,500 could be decided. As it stands, the final recommendations will come before city council during the council's Sept. 4 meeting.

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