CARES Act funding will benefit Youth and Family Services staffers

Council votes to accept $243,129 CESF grant.

Staff Report

The Mercer Island City Council was back in session after a nearly monthlong break and began the new year with a unanimous decision on a key issue, just like it did the last time the seven members met online.

On Dec. 1, it was 7-0 in favor of the biennial budget, and on Jan. 5, it was 7-0 to accept a $243,129 grant from the Washington state Department of Commerce Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) program. The federal CARES Act funding is allocated to each state by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Justice Programs.

The city was notified on Dec. 17 that its application was selected for a grant award. Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (YFS) administrator Tambi Cork laid out the details of the grant at the meeting.

The grant will allow the city’s YFS to restore seven school-based counselors and one emergency assistance coordinator to full time for the entire 2021-2022 biennium. The award covers 20% of their salary and benefits and was set for a Jan. 11 implementation date.

The YFS layoffs and furloughs were due to the city’s pandemic response, which caused unprecedented budget shortfalls early in 2020. Those full-time positions will be vital for overcoming pandemic-related trauma, loss and ongoing mental health concerns, and for families struggling to regain economic stability.

Councilmember Jake Jacobson congratulated the city staff for its efforts to nail down the grant.

“This is another example of the excellent work our staff is doing to have seen this thing on the horizon and gone after it with a vengeance,” Jacobson said. “Our city benefits from this kind of activity, so good on everybody whose fingerprints are on it.”