As the recession rolls into Seattle and Portland like a blanket of fog, leaving laid-off Boeing workers and thousands of former dot-com employees with diminished short-term expectations, the region's robust philanthropic community is expected to step up in the coming months to help those in need, the Portland Oregonian reports.
The two cities, which faced labor shortages in the late 1990s, are located in states that now rank near the top of the unemployment statistics. According to November's numbers, Oregon has a 7.4 percent unemployment rate, while Washington is at 6.8 percent. In addition, both states are struggling with budget deficits at the state level and will not be able to expand social programs as the recession drags on. As a result, increasing numbers of the needy are expected to turn to the region's many charities and philanthropies for help.
Charitable giving gained steam in the Pacific Northwest during the economic boom years of the 1990s, and it has remained strong even as the national economic downturn has negatively impacted charitable giving in other regions. In 2000, the Seattle-area United Way of King County led the nation in per-capita giving and trailed only Chicago and New York in total funds raised, with $93.3 million. The chapter may lead the nation in United Way fundraising in 2001, however, with Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp.'s year-long campaign bringing in some $21.5 million alone.
In addition, the Seattle Foundation gives about $50 million each year to programs in the city, while the Paul G. Allen Foundations, created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, give about $30 million to non- profits in the Pacific Northwest and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the world's richest philanthropies, has given about $300 million to Puget Sound-area nonprofits over the last three years.
"I think all of us in this industry admit we really can't make up the difference between a strong economy and a weak economy," said Paul G. Allen Foundations director Susan M. Coliton. "But we can help organizations weather the recession and respond to these increased levels of need."