Our Advocacy partner, Statewide Poverty Action Network, says the supplemental budget proposals are positive investments in addressing poverty. Here’s the text of their report and analysis:
OLYMPIA—This week, the Washington Senate and House released their respective proposals for the 2018 supplemental budget. The Senate released their proposal on Monday afternoon with the House following suit on Tuesday afternoon. Both proposals maintain and strengthen several key investments in services that low-income families, children, seniors and people with disabilities depend on to meet their basic needs.
With the state’s economy booming, anti-poverty advocates were pleased to see both proposals restore deep, recession-era cuts to our state’s safety net. “Our state is seen as an economic bright spot, but that growth has largely skipped over people with low-incomes. These budget proposals recognize that economic stability and security should not only be available to the wealthy in our state,” said Marcy Bowers, Director of the Statewide Poverty Action Network.
In Washington state, Deep Poverty (50% of the federal poverty line or $10,390 per year for a family of three) has doubled in the last two decades, exacerbated by deep cuts to the state’s safety net during the Great Recession.
“In order to reverse this troubling trend, we must make large investments in our communities, starting with strengthening critical safety net programs, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Working Connections Child Care (WCCC), Housing & Essential Needs (HEN), and Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD),” Bowers added.
Budget writers proposed several investments that serve as a great start toward strengthening our safety net and reducing deep poverty. These investments include:
- Both chambers restored the TANF grant to pre-recession levels, with the Senate raising the maximum cash grant from $613 to $664 per month and the House increasing to $678 per month for a family of four.
- The House budget includes funding to increase the asset limits for applicants to the TANF program to be able to have up to $5,000 in savings and a car worth up to $10,000 – an important lifeline in moving from TANF to economic stability.
- The House allows for people who are homeless and participating in substance use disorder treatment, and ABD recipients facing homelessness, to qualify for a referral to HEN – a critical investment to prevent homelessness among people with disabilities living on very low incomes.
- Both chambers add funding for five additional civil legal aid attorneys to serve people with low incomes across the state in accessing legal representation.
- Both chambers allocate funding to reduce the waitlist for the State Need Grant with the Senate investing $9.8 million and the House investing $25 million.
“Our state is seen as an economic bright spot, but that growth has largely skipped over people with low-incomes. These budget proposals recognize that economic stability and security should not only be available to the wealthy in our state.” ~Marcy Bowers, Director, Statewide Poverty Action Network
While advocates were pleased overall, they also expressed disappointment to not see new, progressive revenue sources, such as a capital gains tax, which would begin to shift the disproportionate share of taxes shouldered by the state’s lowest-income residents. They also noted that in both budget proposals state lawmakers continue to transfer money from TANF to the state’s General Fund, albeit to a lesser degree than in past years. Advocates maintain that TANF’s caseload decline is propelled not by a lack of need but by restrictive, recession-era policies that make accessing the program particularly challenging – and that those savings should be reinvested in TANF to increase the grant and strengthen the education and training services that can help families reach stability.
“We should be doing everything we can to reduce deep poverty in our state, starting first with supporting those that bear the brunt of this troubling trend,” continued Bowers. “We should use any caseload savings to help families pay their rent and utilities, buy clothing and school supplies for their kids, and participate in the type of education and training that is an investment in their family’s long-term economic opportunity.”
After years of difficult budget negotiations, advocates applauded both chambers’ important steps in re-investing resources into low-income communities and communities of color.
“Both the House and Senate have confirmed their commitment to our state’s safety net,” said Bowers. “As they proceed with budget negotiations, we hope they will continue to support essential public services and create hope for the future.”