Rantz: Homelessness agency offers ‘unlimited vacation’ after $11.8 billion budget ask

Mar 17, 2023, 11:20 AM | Updated: 11:36 am
Homeless encampment in Seattle (The Jason Rantz Show)
(The Jason Rantz Show)

The failing agency behind Seattle’s worsening homelessness crisis offered employees “unlimited vacation” on the taxpayer’s dime. It’s a reminder this agency should never be trusted with taxpayer funds — this policy will be quickly abused once we give in.

The failing King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) said it needs $11.8 billion to solve homelessness over the next five years. It is an unrealistic number meant to offer cover as they fail to address the issue. They’ll claim they do not see results because they didn’t get the budget they knew they’d never receive. At the same time, agency leadership has the audacity to offer unlimited vacation to undeserving staffers who failed to succeed on the job, as they’re unwilling to endorse sweeps to bring people into shelter, instead waiting for studio apartments for homeless drug addicts and the mentally ill.

KCRHA is hiring for several positions, including a Deputy Chief Community Impact Officer and a Co-Director of Peer Navigation Workforce. Both six-figure jobs list “unlimited vacation” as a benefit, on top of 96 hours of paid sick leave, 12 official holidays, two personal holidays, medical, dental, and vision benefits, and a pension plan. It really pays to leave homeless people on the street to die.

Rantz: Seattle must overcome delusional or naive homeless people and their enablers

No results? No problem. Take 11 or 47 days off.

Though the KCRHA doesn’t value urgently bringing the homeless inside, it does believe, “vacation is important to the health and well-being of our employees and encourages all employees to take paid vacation as they need. Therefore, the RHA provides full-time employees with unlimited vacation benefits,” its policy read.

This is the homelessness industrial complex at work. Unlimited vacation days are rarely offered to staff-level positions, like Program Specialist, but KCRHA is breaking the norm. Even low-level positions like Contract Coordinator and Systems Advocate are eligible. In the private sector, these positions would never earn a high salary or expansive benefits because. But private sector jobs are salaried based on merit, unlike public sector jobs, which are based on near-guaranteed funding from taxpayers and protections that make it very difficult to terminate bad employees. Indeed, those incompetent employees end up with promotions and higher salaries.

The unlimited vacation days policy is subject to supervisor approval — assuming you can find one who isn’t taking their unlimited vacation days. Approval of vacation is based on the employee’s workload. KCHRA did not have any annual data on the average vacation days used by its employees because it switched payroll systems. A spokesperson said, since August, the average vacation days taken is 8.5.

KCRHA money pit

The KCRHA elicited groans from elected officials when it asked for $11.8 billion to do a job where they’ve already seen few results. The budget proposal included $8.4 billion for one-time capital costs over the five-year period and an additional $3.4 billion for operating expenses.

CEO Marc Dones, who was the county’s backup choice to run the agency after the initial selection unexpectedly dropped out, is perceived by critics as dismissing accountability measures with endless excuses over a lack of results. He sent a staff member to report on KCRHA’s progress, in lieu of appearing himself, at a hearing with the King County Council on March 15. When he does take questions, Dones shows an alarming ignorance of the homelessness crisis, which he thinks can only be solved with a “housing first” model, a failed strategy that gives the homeless homes without addressing the underlying reasons for their homelessness. It’s a money pit, which explains the unrealistic budget request.

Neither the offices of King County Executive Dow Constantine nor Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell expressed concerns about offering unlimited vacations to its employees. But King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, a critic of the KCRHA, was beside himself.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Homelessness agency offers ‘unlimited vacation’ after $11.8 billion budget ask