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King County could loan 4Culture $20 million

The loan would be repaid by the organization and used to help serve marginalized communities.

King County’s arts and culture organization 4Culture could receive a $20 million loan to help fund capital projects serving marginalized communities.

4Culture was created by the county in 2002 to award grants to local arts and culture organizations. In recent years, a task force was formed to examine whether money was being awarded in an equitable way to marginalized communities, and based on the task force report, the county directed the organization to incorporate racial and social equity into its award process.

The $20-million loan also serves a specific need largely for construction, purchase and preservation of infrastructure and facilities. King County senior legislative analyst Leah Krekel-Zoppi told the county’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee at a June 11 meeting that 4Culture’s Cultural Facilities grant program has historically awarded as much as $1 million in total grants each biennium.

However, in the 2018-19 budget they received more than $17 million in requests, a number which has been driven up in recent years due to the high cost of construction and property.

The 4Equity program would provide a $20 million loan to 4Culture which would be repaid with interest from future lodging tax revenue. The organization is largely funded by lodging tax and a 1-percent tax for art revenues. Payments from the county to the program could begin this year and stretch through 2023. 4Culture would begin paying back the loan at a minimum of $2 million annually beginning in 2021 through 2031, with $500,000 in interest.

The ordinance authorizing the loan requires approval from the King County Council and dictates broad categories where the money would need to be spent. The program would also be rolled out in two phases. Some $7 million would be spent on funding for organizations that had received a recent 4Culture grant for capital projects that have run into unanticipated construction costs.

$1 million would go to the Preservation Action Fund, $2 million would go to creating an education and mentoring program for organizations serving marginalized communities and $10 million would go toward cultural facilities grant awards through a process that prioritizes organizations serving marginalized communities.

Marginalized communities are defined in the ordinance documents as people with disabilities, low incomes, people living in areas with significant inequalities, rural residents and those living in Seattle neighborhoods traditionally under-represented in 4Culture funding.

“We want to be in the game of supporting them,” said Brian Carter, 4Culture’s executive director, at a June 25 Budget and Fiscal Management Committee meeting.

During the first phase, 4Culture would be awarding money to organizations that ran into unanticipated construction costs, funding the Preservation Action Fund and provide funding to organizations serving marginalized communities. The second phase would make funds available for facilities grants to a broader array of cultural organizations, fund the creation of cultural spaces linked to transit-oriented developments, buying and protecting historic properties and enhancing earthquake protections.

Funds will be available from the county in 2021. Since 2016, all relevant portions of the lodging tax have been used to fund the football stadium and exhibition center, county documents said.

Beginning in 2021, the lodging tax countywide will be allocated by category with 37.5 percent going to arts and cultural purposes, 37.5 percent to creating affordable workforce housing near transit stations or for services for homeless youth. The remaining 25 percent will go to capital or operating programs that promote tourism and arts, heritage and cultural events.

In 2018, 4Culture’s Projects Grants Fund awarded more than $1.07 million

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