Seattle City Council approves revised amendment seeking report on grant program



(The Center Square) – The Seattle City Council has approved a revised amendment that will not halt 2024 funding for the city’s Equitable Development Initiative program.

The amendment is sponsored by first-year Seattle City Councilmember Maritza Rivera. Prior to the city council’s approval, Rivera said she decided to withdraw her initial amendment after meeting with community members and stakeholders.

Rivera’s new amendment keeps the call for a detailed report from the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) on how it intends to ensure successful completion of the 56 EDI-funded projects that are ongoing. Rivera said this was the main intent of her original amendment.

“I continue to have questions – it does not sound like OPCD has been adequately partnering with other departments to help these projects along,” Rivera said during a city council meeting on Tuesday. “I remain concerned that OPCD has not shown an appropriate level of accountability or transparency regarding the EDI program and its ability to track and complete these important projects.”

The program remains fully funded. OPCD will be able to keep $51.4 million in unspent dollars from 2023, and also receive $25.3 million in 2024 funding. The department has said it will use the 2024 allocation to provide further support to existing EDI projects only.

Rivera’s original legislation was not made public until the Friday before the holiday weekend last month, which upset some community members who said they only had five business hours to comment on the proposed amendment.

The original amendment would have imposed a proviso on $25.3 million allocated for the Equitable Development Initiative program in the 2024 Adopted Budget, if passed by the city council. The proviso would have required that the $25.3 million not be spent until authorized by a future ordinance.

The EDI grant program provides funding to community organizations in high displacement-risk neighborhoods that help acquire sites and develop major projects. It is considered a crucial funding source for community-based organizations looking to build projects that support small business, build affordable housing, and address racial disparity.

The amendment passed with only one no vote from Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales, who said the legislation puts undue pressure on the OPCD that “is already significantly constrained and understaffed to do a quality evaluation in just 90 days.”

According to data shared by Rivera from the Seattle City Council Central Staff, the EDI program has spent an average of 25% of its total budget annually over the last five years. If that trend continues, the program will have over $90 million of unspent funds in its budget by 2026.

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