August 5, 2019
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Bellevue will have a year-round homeless shelter thanks to Washington employers

Each year a homeless shelter for men closes on May 1, because it’s not up to code. But that will soon change thanks to the generosity of the business community and a team of professionals that donated their services, The Seattle Times reports as part of its ongoing Project Homeless.

The shelter can only be used when it’s more dangerous to live outside than inside, the newspaper explains. That’s because the shelter is not up to code.

But thanks to the professionals and others who donated, the shelter will be able to stay open year-round.

The news “offered a moment of unity around homelessness in a city that hasn’t had much of that in the last few years,” editor Scott Greenstone wrote. “The council on Thursday was full of laughter as business leaders and politicians celebrated.”

Bellevue Mayor John Chelminiak gave former city councilor Kevin Wallace credit for the shelter’s expansion.

“I didn’t want to have the men just kicked out into the cold again, ever,” said Wallace, a real estate developer.

He worked with local elected officials, the business community and the nonprofit Congregations for the Homeless, which manages the shelter, to raise the $750,000. Puget Sound Energy and Microsoft each donated $100,000, the paper reports.

“I was surprised that anybody came forward to champion this outside of the nonprofit community,” said David Bowling, the executive director of Congregations for the Homeless. “If a man falls into homelessness, starting September 1st, he will have year-round access to shelter. Today, if someone falls into homelessness on the Eastside, they have to live in camps and in our woods.”

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Solving Housing Issues

Housing: A huge issue for Washington's long-term economic health

By AWB President Kris Johnson

We hear about skyrocketing home prices in places like Seattle, San Francisco, and New York and shake our heads. Modest three-bedroom ramblers going for $1 million or more. Hopeful home-buyers engaging in bidding wars, sometimes buying houses sight-unseen, or skipping inspections to ensure someone else doesn't close the deal first.

But the lack of housing of all types is really a nationwide crisis, according to U.S. Rep. Denny Heck. Heck, D-Wash., was one of the speakers at a statewide Housing Forum put on last month by a coalition of 10 organizations including the Association of Washington Business (AWB).

The country is at least 5 million homes short of what's needed, Heck said, and the case could be made the shortfall is more like 7 million. "Supply is not keeping up with demand," he said. It only gets worse as Washington is expected to add 1.5 million people by 2040...

For employers, the availability of high-quality, affordable housing is a critical factor in the ability to attract and retain skilled workers. For employees, finding housing within the same communities as their jobs mean shorter commutes, more time spent with families and better work-life balance. And for communities, all these elements contribute to the quality of place we all desire.

Read the full guest column in The Wenatchee Valley Business World
Costing Jobs

One-size-fits-all minimum wage hike hurts rural Central Washington

By U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-WA

Last week, the House of Representatives voted on the Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, despite warnings from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that this would result in the loss of nearly 4 million American jobs.

In Washington state, we have already seen how mandating a higher minimum wage is negatively affecting our economy. With a statewide minimum wage of $12 per hour, Washington mandates one of the highest rates in the country, and it will increase by another $1.50 in January 2020. In an attempt to address wage disparity in large cities like Seattle, which already institutes a $15 minimum wage, this sharp, mandatory increase has led to businesses filing bankruptcy, and it is already having a harmful effect on small businesses and nonprofits in Central Washington.

The Boys & Girls Club of the Columbia Basin in Moses Lake, for example, reached out to my office to share their concerns with the state's accelerated wage increases and about the federal legislation.

The Boys & Girls Club is already struggling, but further increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour for the entry-level employees they hire will force them to make a very difficult decision: raise participation fees for low-income families or eliminate the programs they offer.

Read the full column in The Columbia Basin Herald