King County won’t cut budgets for violence prevention programs

The King County budget axe will not cut back programs that prevent violence against women and families with children, according to a proposal by the Metropolitan King County Budget Leadership Team.

The full County Council adopted the 2010 King County Budget on Nov. 23 by giving its unanimous approval to a $5 billion 2010 King County Budget. The budget preserves nearly all current funding for public safety and criminal justice and averts threatened cuts to Metro bus service, county officials said. .

Council budget leadership funded the programs in their striker by reprioritizing some of the $3 million set aside in the Executive Proposed Budget to transition the county out of animal sheltering services. The Council has called for the county to make that transition sooner, by Jan. 31, 2010.

After hearing painful personal testimonies from survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault at four public hearings, the county budget team announced Wednesday it has reprioritized funds in its 2010 budget proposal to fully restore programs that prevent violence against women and families with children at 2009 levels.

“Every year, we are reminded of the vital role public input has on our budget process,” said Council Budget Chair Larry Gossett. “Compelling stories from the survivors of abuse and the agencies that help them escape started at our first public hearing in Bellevue and continued throughout our budget deliberations. These are programs that literally save lives; we could not let them end.”

Budget Vice Chair Jane Hague said the choice to continue to fund these life-saving human service programs was easy. Hague noted, “Violence against women and children knows no social boundaries. The agencies that handle these cases, like Eastside Domestic Violence Program, King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Eastside Legal Assistance Program, highlight that the need is still apparent in areas like Redmond; it just looks different. At the town hall meeting, many people spoke convincingly about the need to help others. Eastside Domestic Violence Program emphasizes that incidents this year have been more violent than ever before. These agencies still need more.

“For every one family that is accepted into a safe house, 17 are turned away,” Hague said.

The approved county budget will restore nearly $1.4 million in dedicated and general funds for programs for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault, and for legal aid programs that help survivors obtain restraining orders and navigate the judicial system.

The so-called “budget striker” will restore:

• $764,000 in the general fund for domestic violence prevention;

• $504,000 for the prevention of sexual assault, half of which is supported by the general fund and half from the sales tax dedicated for mental illness and drug dependency programs;

• $108,000 in the general fund for legal aid programs that support families with children.

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