Council Roundup: April 20, 2020

COVID-19 Response, Emergency Budget Reductions, New Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Members
Posted on 04/21/2020
KCFD2 Firefighter wearing homemade mask

Council heard an update on COVID-19 response, discussed emergency budget reductions, approved the Comprehensive Plan Docket, appointed new members to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and discussed business license code updates.

Fire, Police, and Human Services Department Respond to COVID-19

Council heard an update on how police, fire, and human services departments are responding to COVID-19 pandemic.

King County Fire District #2 Update

Chief Mike Marrs of King County Fire District #2 shared how his agency is focused on keeping their staff healthy so they can continue to provide emergency services and not inadvertently spread the disease. They have had to employ creative measures to extend their personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes employing a PPE conservation program to conserve medical grade PPE for known-COVID cases, using cloth masks, making gowns out of Tyvek, and purchasing decontamination equipment. They are practicing non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI) such as handwashing and social distancing. They are also planning for contingencies such as a widespread illness among firefighters, the need to temporarily reduce service at stations (brownout), and more.

Burien Police Department

Chief Theodore (“Ted”) Boe shared how his officers and staff are also practicing safety measures and social distancing, and ensuring his team has an adequate supply of PPE. The police department is still fully operational, but asking for increased telephone and online reporting. The Public Defenders Association (PDA) and Burien Police Department are working together on a program called Co-LEAD, which is connecting people experiencing homelessness to supportive housing. Last week, a group of new PDA outreach workers trained with Burien Police Department detectives. A few days later, they started housing people and 18 people have been housed in supportive hotel housing as of Friday, April 17. The Burien Police Department also continues to work with the Navigation Team, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, Catholic Community Services and several other partners to help people find shelter and resources.

Human Services

Human Services Manager Colleen Brandt-Schluter shared a status report on community needs, and the efforts of her department and regional partners who are trying to meet those needs.

One way the City is learning about community needs is through the agencies funded by the Human Services Fund. While local organizations are facing their own sustainability challenges, they are still providing services in creative ways with compassion and care. From these agencies, and from phone calls from individual residents the City has learned the most urgent needs are for dental care, rent assistance, food support, and childcare.

King County Metro Transit continues service reductions as riders limit themselves to essential trips. Ridership is down just over 70 percent, compared to this time in 2019. Metro is also experiencing increased reduction in frontline workers.

Several grant programs have awarded emergency funding to agencies serving our community. The Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund has raised $19 million and growing, and it will be issuing a second round of funding. They are inviting more stakeholder input to inform the process. King County awarded grants of up to $25,000 to community-based organizations and other stakeholders serving impacted communities. They prioritized communities at the highest risk of immediate and long-term negative health outcomes and social and economic impacts, with an emphasis on communities located near isolation, quarantine, and recovery sites. Some local organizations received funding for COVID-19 response to serve those most in need and support families with limited documentation.

Human Services is also checking in weekly with Highline Public Schools, food banks, agencies providing rent and utility assistance, Healthcare for the Homeless, King County Community Partners Task Force, and agencies providing family support. The Human Services Commission met to discuss priorities and possible agencies to support with the $200,000 the Burien City Council allocated for COVID-19 emergency support. The Commission wants to see the results of larger scale efforts before allocating Burien dollars.

The City has created web pages with information for those who want to help and for those who need help. The City is also sending out weekly email newsletter with links to resources. Email communications@burienwa.gov if you would like to be added to the email distribution list.

Economic Development

Economic Development Manager Chris Craig discussed the current state of Burien’s economy and how small businesses are weathering the economic slowdown. He outlined a five-phase model of economic recovery. We have passed the initial outbreak stage and are currently in the second phase, mitigation. Currently, businesses need information, resources, and are looking at ways to reduce expenditures. Next will be an interim phase where there will be a systematic re-opening of the economy. Businesses will need to build resiliency and flexibility, adapt to social distancing guidelines, and build consumer confidence. Revenue challenges will remain. We will then move into the recovery phase, where there will be additional stability for some, while some places and communities will continue to suffer. There will be new consumer behaviors and a realignment of businesses and workforce in preparation for the new economic reality, which is the final phase.

There were also updates on the federal CARES Act, a stimulus program aimed at helping businesses make it through this emergency. He outlined the challenges our local businesses have faced in accessing these resources. Most of Burien businesses are small, “mom and pop” operations the City has heard anecdotally that they have not been as successful in accessing the grant and programs offered by the federal government. City-level data for that program has not been released yet. Economic development staff have been working with their partners to provide individualized technical assistance as well as working with communications to inform our local businesses quickly about resources and other grant opportunities.

Staff will be continuing these efforts and are exploring potential opportunities for Burien to provide business grants through Community Development Block Grant funding. The City will be working hard to support the eventual re-opening of our local economy.

Comprehensive Plan Docket Approved

Council approved the Comprehensive Plan Docket.

Emergency Budget Reductions

Staff presented the estimated financial impact of the economic slowdown put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. The City anticipates that General Fund revenues will decrease in 2020 by at least 16 percent, or 4.85 million. $2.2 million in sales tax loss is estimated to be lost. Revenues from program and planning fees and revenues from other taxes will also be down. Staff presented an initial plan to cover the loss of revenues, balance the budget, and to continue to fund important programs and services to the community. The City will evaluate and monitor the plan as economic recovery unfolds.

New Members Appointed to Parks and Recreation Advisory Board

Council appointed Amy Rushforth and Hayley Ventoza to serve on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

Greensward Farm Subdivision

Council approved a subdivision request for the Greensward Farms development. Council discussed the current tree regulations and how they were applied to the preliminary subdivision preproposal.

“We are Still In” Declaration

Council agreed to sign the “We Are Still In” declaration, which states that its signatories are committed to meeting the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. Since its initial release on June 5, 2017, more than 3,800 leaders from across the country have signed the declaration in support of climate action.