Seattle Channel

A task force put together to identify funding sources for homelessness services has issued its recommendations to the City Council.

In November, the council passed a resolution creating the Progressive Revenue Task Force after rejecting a so-called “employee hours tax” on businesses grossing more than $10 million that would have brought in about $25 million in new revenue for homeless services per year.

After working for two months, the group recommended the council pass a tax that will generate $75 million per year, which is on the high end of the range they were asked to consider. They also recommended the city undergo some cost cutting to fund homelessness services, and to study other potential progressive revenue that could bring the overall figure to $150 million.

While not enough to solve the housing crisis, the task force writes that $150 million, "wisely invested over at least the next ten years, will result in significant and measurable progress towards ending the crisis of homelessness and housing insecurity in our city.”

The task force offered three potential structures for an employee hours tax and outlined four guiding principles of the tax:

First, the tax should be as progressive as possible, meaning businesses that can afford to pay more would pay more. Second, exemptions to the tax must be given fairly and consistently, free from political influence. Third, the tax should not disproportionately impact businesses owned by people of color. And finally, some businesses that make less than the revenue threshold should chip in a little bit.

The recommendations say that the council should dedicate 80 percent of new revenue from an employee hours tax to housing, and 20 percent to emergency shelter and services. They also urge the city to consider the spectrum of housing needs, partner with faith communities, make it safer for people living in vehicles, commit to no net loss of shelter capacity, invest in non-housing services that overlap with the homelessness crisis (like alternatives to incarceration programs), and increase wages for human services workers.