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Data Drives Equity in Economic Development

Update on the Port's COVID-19 response Learn more.

August 5, 2020

Disasters and crises expose, deepen, and exacerbate existing structural failures and social inequities. Time and time again, the same communities suffer the most — communities of color, women, immigrants, and people living on low incomes — and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different. Nationally and locally, people of color, especially Latinx and African Americans, are being infected at disproportionately higher rates than white people, and people of color are experiencing the brunt of the ensuing economic recession.

Despite the economic downturn associated with the pandemic, the Port maintains its commitment to providing livable wage jobs and opportunities to King County. We remain committed to dismantling structural barriers so that historically oppressed communities, particularly communities of color, have access to the resources they need to thrive. The South King County Fund (SKCF) is one way to break down these barriers.

In April 2020, the Port Commission updated the South King County Fund to add “economic development” as an approved use of funding to support investments in the Port’s regional COVID-19 recovery efforts. With ties to all of Washington’s key economic sectors and connections to more than 500 employers operating at our facilities, the Port stands uniquely positioned to help lead the regional recovery.

Mapping equity 

To ensure the equitable distribution of the Port’s economic recovery funding, the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (OEDI) created an Equity Index, which provides a geographic representation of how different communities experience environmental pollutants and various socioeconomic factors (e.g. housing cost, transportation, livable wage jobs, etc.). By cross-referencing environmental and socioeconomic factors with data on COVID-19 and unemployment, Port staff can use this data to frame and inform investments of resources, funds, and support.

In the map below, black dots represent unemployment claims between March and May of 2020. The larger the dot, the more claims. Additionally, the map defines areas with high exposure to environmental pollutants and various socioeconomic factors (e.g., housing cost, transportation, livable wage jobs, and additional indicators). The more environmental pollutants and negative socioeconomic factors, the lighter the color. For instance, residents of White Center face many barriers (e.g., high exposure to diesel admissions, high traffic density, few parks and green spaces, etc.) so the community is represented on the map as a very light color. By contrast, residents of Vashon Island do not face many environmental and socio-economic barriers, so that community is represented on the map as a dark color.

Click on the map to get additional information about the COVID-19 rate and Index scores per census block. COVID-19 data is obtained from King County and unemployment claims from Washington State Employment Security Department

Equity-based partnerships

Through the South King County Fund, the Port will develop deep equity-based partnerships and provide resources and support in historically underrepresented near-airport communities. 

Along with data from the Equity Index, the Port is using the following principles to center equity and embrace our vision of expanded economic development for all. The SKCF will:

  • Invest in projects in the South King County area 
  • Prioritize community input to inform Port decision making 
  • Support Port equity policies and practices, including giving underrepresented communities access to opportunities and using equity policies to evaluate potential initiatives and establish desired outcomes 
  • Provide added benefit to current Port programs to address airport noise, increased environmental health, and sustainability 
  • Prioritize projects that are ready to proceed
  • Build on established programs and commitments to fulfill current obligations  Promote innovation; and 
  • Encourage matching funds where possible

The Fund will award $1.5 million to be divided into the following three programs for 2020 :

1. Economic Recovery and Workforce Development Grants program ($1 million) 

Projects must serve one of the following Port related industries: Aviation, Maritime, Construction, and/or Green Jobs. Funds will support nonprofits in South King County that are conducting projects in the following four categories:

  • Small business assistance
  • Workforce development
  • Job creation
  • Ideation, network building, developing new, innovative economic recovery strategies 

2. Environmental Grants Program ($250,000) 

Built off the Airport Community Ecology (ACE) Fund model which provides small matching grants to conduct environmental improvement projects in Burien, Des Moines, Federal Way, Normandy Park, SeaTac, and Tukwila. Community-led groups can apply for South King County Environmental Grants beginning this fall.

3. Funding for Port Gen (a program of Diversity in Contracting) ($250,000) 

The Port will expand existing contracts with organizations that support women and minority business enterprises (WMBE) in South King County as part of the overall Economic Recovery Strategy. 

By prioritizing the needs of the most impacted communities, by using data to inform decision making, and by partnering with community-based organizations, our community will emerge from this pandemic and economic crisis stronger — and more equitable.  

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