Prison bars (File photo)

Prison bars (File photo)

WA to invest $200 million to address disparities created by “war on drugs”

Dept. of Commerce to establish 17 different grant programs to invest in communities impacted.

On Oct. 31, the Washington State Department of Commerce announced a “Community Reinvestment Plan” identifying a set of actions to distribute $200 million to address “racial, economic, and social disparities” in Washington communities and to individuals “disproportionately harmed by the historical design and enforcement of state and federal criminal laws and penalties for drug possession” — what the department said is commonly referred to as the “war on drugs.”

The plan, which the department says was developed through community-centered discussion and review, describes 17 grant programs across four areas as directed by the Washington Legislature: economic development, civil and criminal legal assistance, community-based violence intervention and prevention services, and reentry services programs.

The grant programs listed by the Department of Commerce include:

Economic Development $138 million

• Loan Guarantee Fund, $17 million: Provides funding and loan loss reserve to lenders across the state who offer financing and financial services to underserved communities that traditional banks have overlook.

• Black, Latino and Indigenous-Led Lending Agency Support, $15 million: Supports existing and emerging Black, Latino and Indigenous-led lenders, who are or not currently Community Development Financial Institutions by providing grants for lending capital as well as capital for operations and salaries

• Homeownership Capital Accelerator, $15 million: Provides loan capital to lending agencies for increased leverage to help reduce the buyer’s monthly mortgage payment and to increase purchasing power.

• Individual Development Accounts, $25 million: Aims to help Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities save for specific assets, such as education, housing, or starting and growing a business.

• Blended Capital Enhancements, $25 million: Assists beneficiaries in acquiring or securing assets through loans, matched savings, and asset journey acquisition enhancement.

• Cannabis Business Grants, $3 million: Provides funding to groups of organizations and individuals that come together to promote and advance policies and programs.

• Asset Building Initiatives, $3 million: Provides funding to groups of organizations and individuals that come together to promote and advance policies and programs.

• Financial Coaching and Mentorship, $10 million: Program aims to help individuals and families build a financially stable future while honoring their cultural backgrounds. Participants will receive trauma-informed financial coaching, business coaching, and homebuyer education.

Community-Based Violence Intervention and Prevention - $30 million

• Violence Reduction, $10 million: Provides capacity building and technical support to existing Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention funding programs addressing the prevention and intervention of firearm violence.

• Community Healer, $10 million: Provides a culturally responsive program to address the unique cultural and social needs of a specific community.

• Youth Sports Capacity Building, $5 million: Provides funding for community sports and activities, supporting compensation for coaches, training for volunteers, and facilitating the removal of barriers to youth participation.

• Barber/Beauty Shop Health Navigation, $5 million: Provides outreach and paid training to, and certification of, barbers and beauty shop operators to deliver life coaching, violence prevention, mental health, and mentorship to customers, addressing the need for community-based support and resources.

Reentry Services - $12 million

• Expand Reentry Program, $12 million: Expands the existing Reentry Grant Program that provides reentry services to justice involved individuals who have recently exited or are in the process of exiting incarceration.

Civil and Criminal Legal Assistance - $8 million

• Vacating Criminal Records and LFO Relief, $2 million: Provides outreach and education to support the vacating of criminal records and legal financial obligations relief.

• Legal Representation, $6 million: Aims to address the needs of Black, Indigenous and Latino individuals impacted by the criminal justice system in disproportionately affected neighborhoods in Tacoma and Seattle.

• Visit this link for more information on the grant programs.

“Governor Inslee and the Legislature have established Washington state as a leader in beginning to take steps, centered in community, to mitigate the devastating impacts of historic drug policies and mass incarceration. This plan offers a blueprint for how we can begin to reinvest together in the affected communities and families,” said Commerce Director Mike Fong.

Commerce partnered with the state Office of Equity and the Harriet Tubman Foundation for Safe Passage and its researchers, engaging with other community partners to develop the plan, laying out recommendations for how Commerce will invest these funds over the next two years through June 30, 2025.

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