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King County’s new sales tax to raise millions for cultural groups

“Doors Open” recently passed the county’s council.

The outside of the Northwest African American Museum on a sunny day.

The Northwest African American Museum in the Central District is eligible for “Doors Open” funds.

Photo via NAAM

Hear that knocking? King County Council just passed a new ordinance to fund “Doors Open” — a program that aims to support hundreds of local arts, cultural, science, and historical preservation nonprofits.

The legislation enacts a 0.1% sales tax that’s expected to raise more than $90 million every year for the next seven years. The tax goes into effect next April and is estimated to cost each household ~$40 per year.

Olympia and Tacoma recently passed similar ordinances. Olympia’s program brought in millions for the arts, while Tacoma’s version proved to be a lifeline for organizations during the pandemic.

Let’s dig a little deeper to see the potential impact of “Doors Open” in our county.

Where the money’s going

The programs funds will be divvied up into different grant pools intended to make sure all geographic areas of the county receive support and that smaller orgs led by people of color aren’t left behind.

In the largest grant pool, the money would get distributed like this:

  • 50% to existing cultural organizations
  • 15% to public school programming
  • 15% to reimbursing organizations that offer free tickets and/or rides to shows
  • 10% to Building for Equity, which helps BIPOC-led groups purchase cultural spaces
  • 3% to help start new organizations
  • ~3% for admin costs

Who will benefit?

4Culture, a 58-year-old county organization that specializes in fund distribution, will oversee the program. The list of 500+ wide-ranging groups eligible to receive funds would include:

  • The Northwest African American Museum
  • Issaquah Salmon Hatchery
  • The Auburn Symphony Orchestra
  • Lake City’s Refugee Artisan Initiative
  • Seattle Theatre Group (STG)

Even with the county’s boost, local groups can always use a helping hand from volunteers + individual donors, especially during the holiday season. Here’s how to give back.