The recession has a had major impact on Bellevue, causing a significant rise in unemployment, emergency financial assistance needs, food bank demand and domestic violence services, according to a study presented Monday to the Bellevue City Council.
Council reviewed findings from the 2009-2010 Human Services Needs Update, which is produced by city staff every two years and used to help prioritize human service projects. The Bellevue Human Services Commission will use the document to guide recommendations to Council on how to allocate resources for 2011 and 2012.
The Needs Update relies on extensive data gathering, including telephone and online surveys, focus groups and interviews, to identify the key human services needs of Bellevue residents. The 2009-2010 update identified the following as emerging or ongoing trends and issues:
- Unemployment: The current economic downturn has resulted in significant job losses and high unemployment rates in Bellevue and elsewhere. Though Bellevue's unemployment rate is lower (7.2 percent) than the statewide rate (9.8 percent), there has been considerable impact in the city. Also, more residents are reporting that they are underemployed, working part time and earning less than at previous jobs.
- Service requests: Demand for services from nonprofit agencies has increased dramatically, including emergency financial assistance (49 percent increase), food banks (31 percent increase) and domestic violence services (50 percent increase). In the Bellevue School District, the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunch jumped from 17 percent in October 2008 to 21 percent (3,580 students) in October 2009.
- Affordable housing: Demand for homeless housing continues to outpace supply. The East King County Plan to End Homelessness estimated that 1,845 more units are needed to meet the need in the next two years. Affordable housing for lower wage employees, older adults and others in Bellevue was ranked as the number one need in the community telephone survey.
- Health care: More people under age 65 lack health insurance, and therefore have limited access to medical care. From 2005 to 2007, an average 8.4 percent of Bellevue residents reported they were uninsured, up from 5 percent in 2001. That percentage is expected to grow due to the high unemployment rate, according to the Needs Update.
- Services for older adults: Human services providers and Bellevue Network on Aging members expressed concern over a lack of services to help the growing population of older adults (14.4 percent of Bellevue's population) "age in place" in their homes.
- Diverse population: The ethnic diversity in Bellevue continues to grow. The latest American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that almost 31 percent of residents are foreign born. The Bellevue School District reports 81 languages spoken, with 30 percent of students speaking a first language other than English.
- Transportation: Inadequate public transportation was the top household problem as reported by respondents to the phone survey in 2009, moving up from fourth highest in 2007. Comments indicate that not having a convenient, affordable way to access services or work is a major barrier, especially for people with disabilities and low-income people.
- Decrease in resources: Due to the national recession, all levels of government as well as private and corporate funders of human services are experiencing financial challenges. This translates to an uncertain environment for human service agencies at a time when needs have increased.
The Needs Update is used extensively for planning purposes by community agencies, Bellevue city staff, staff in other local jurisdictions and faith-based groups.
Bellevue allocates money from its Human Services Fund and a portion of the federal Community Development Block Grant program to support community-based, nonprofit, social-service agencies that provide help to residents. In the summer and fall of 2010, the Human Services Commission will develop recommendations to council for the 2011-2012 biennial funding cycle.
For more information: An online copy of the 2010-2011 Human Services Needs Update full report will be available by Jan. 15.
Feedback: Robin Haaseth, Parks Public Information Officer, 425-452-6182 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Alexandria O’Reilly, Human Services Planning Coordinator, 425-452-2824 or email@example.com.
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