FEMA disaster relief trailers in storage.
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FEMA disaster relief trailers in storage.
Credit: FEMA

King County has lost nearly $1M in federal funding for homeless services

FEMA — the Federal Emergency Management Agency — cut funding for homelessness services in King County.

By the agency’s measure, King County has become just too well-off.

FEMA looks at the unemployment and federal poverty rates to measure which counties get funding. And unemployment in King County dropped this year, so it no longer qualifies.

Lauren McGowan, with United Way of King County, said the irony is that the region’s prosperity is helping drive homelessness.

“The leading cause of homelessness in our region is the lack of affordable housing,” McGowan said, “and we have a lack of affordable housing in many ways because of our strong local economy.”

McGowan added that the funding formula doesn’t reflect how homelessness works in West Coast cities with high employment but a high cost of living.

“We know that many of the people who are unsheltered have jobs, and they just aren’t able to afford the rent,” she said.

United Way is appealing FEMA’s decision, pointing to the number of people experiencing homelessness in the county. But McGowan also hopes that state and federal governments can change the funding system so that homelessness services don’t have to rely on year-to-year funding.

Crosscut first reported the funding cuts.