At Solid Ground, we believe that communities are strongest when all of us can put food on our table, pay for our everyday needs, and pursue our own goals in life – no matter who we are or where we come from. That’s why we work with our advocacy partner, Statewide Poverty Action Network, to fight for policy changes in Washington state that help transform systems that are stacked against us into systems that treat us fairly.
Like Solid Ground, Poverty Action understands that people who experience poverty every day know best what kind of support they need to survive and thrive. With that in mind, Poverty Action focuses on driving policy change by centering the narratives of impacted communities.
But changing policy and sharing our stories aren’t two separate projects. They must be woven together, our stories and lived experiences driving our policy ambitions at every level. By centering the voices of those living in poverty, we can come together as a community and build policy change that’s larger than ourselves.
Through conversation with community members, we’ve made ambitious plans to tackle three policy priorities this year. Join us to help weave individual narratives into meaningful policy change during the 2023 legislative session and beyond.
Meeting Basic Needs
We’re each experts in our lives and know how to meet our own needs better than anyone else. With direct, flexible cash assistance, we can have what we need to make the best decisions for ourselves. Parents can buy their growing child new shoes one month and afford to replace a flat tire the next. People with disabilities can buy the device that best helps them stay connected with friends and loved ones. Seasonal workers can stock their fridges even when work is slow. A first-generation college student can afford textbooks and bus fare to get to class.
What we’re fighting for:
- Increasing equity and improving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): We’re fighting for TANF time-limit exemptions for families experiencing hardships, eliminating time limits for child-only cases, and introducing Stabilization Waivers so that families aren’t penalized when they face complications in life like loss of housing or a child’s severe illness. We’re also pushing to improve this vital lifeline by smoothing the “cliff effect” for families transitioning to employment, allowing families to keep 100% of their child support, increasing the TANF cash grants to keep up with inflation and rising costs of living, and increasing asset limits. (To learn more, read TANF Legislation and Budget Priorities 2023.)
- Removing the requirement for disabled adults to repay the state for cash assistance: Washington state’s cash assistance program for disabled adults living in deep poverty is called Aged, Blind, Disabled (ABD). People can qualify for ABD when they’re likely to transfer onto Federal Social Security (Disability) Income (SSI). However, once recipients transfer onto SSI, they’re expected to pay back every dollar given to them by ABD. It should not be the burden of those living in deep poverty to reimburse the state, especially when transferring to a low, fixed income due to a disability.
- Supporting equitable access to DSHS services and preventing ongoing racialized harm caused by the Office of Fraud and Accountability (OFA): OFA investigations are invasive and intimidating. They have an outsized impact on preventing Black, Latino, and Indigenous families from safely accessing their benefits. Families are often investigated either because of honest mistakes made on complicated government forms or as a result of caseworker referrals based in implicit bias. By shifting funding away from harm and into support, we can increase equitable access and make sure everyone can get the help they need.
Building Vibrant Communities
We believe it’s possible to build a better world than the one we’ve inherited. Strong communities come from a clear vision for socioeconomic justice – a vision that includes a fair tax code that pays for basic needs, robust cash assistance programs that help everyday Washingtonians make ends meet, and civil rights measures that ensure progress on racial justice.
When we neglect to tax the wealth of major corporations and a small cadre of exceedingly wealthy individuals, we leave money on the table that can strengthen our state. With a fair tax code, we could pay for cash assistance programs proven to reduce wealth inequality, stimulate the economy, and help Washingtonians make ends meet.
What we’re fighting for:
- Facilitating access to the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC): In 2021 the Washington State Legislature took the step of funding the WFTC, which was first created during the Great Recession, giving folks who make around $50,000 access to a much-needed stipend to help with groceries, mental health services, utility costs, and more. We’ll continue to work with our legislative partners to see the implementation of the Working Families Tax Credit through to completion this year. (To learn more, download A Basic Income For All)
- Creating and funding the Washington Futures Fund: As a baby bonds program, the Washington Futures Fund is intended to create savings for children in low-income families. This program would set aside $4,000 for newborns born under Apple Health, which will accumulate value until they will be able to access between their 18th and 31st birthdays to use to pay for higher education, buying a home, or starting a business. Because wealth-building opportunities are limited for Washingtonians without access to capital, this program will help interrupt the cycle of intergenerational poverty in a meaningful way.
- Creating and funding a statewide Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) pilot: We were proud to contribute intent language to Rep. Liz Berry’s bill to establish a Guaranteed Basic Income in Washington state. Eligibility for the program would be open to all adult Washington residents whose income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. To reflect geographic variations in costs of living, the program would provide participants with a monthly payment equal to the cost of rent for a 2-bedroom unit in their area of residence. This pilot program would provide monthly, unconditional cash payments to participants for greater freedom, dignity, and choice in caring for themselves and their families. (To learn more, read Support the Evergreen Basic Income Program.)
- Continuing the conversation about public safety: In Washington state, police are legally authorized to take any property that they determine is linked to a drug-related crime. Each year, police departments in Washington state keep millions of dollars in revenue from seized property, creating a profit incentive for police officers. Additionally, a proposal has been put forth for the 2023 legislative session to re-allow the use of police chokeholds. This would reverse the momentum started by the civil rights summer of 2020 and lead to disproportionate harm to BIPOC communities. We’ve come a long way as a state in pursuing police accountability, but we still have a long way to go. This year, we’ll amplify and support the work of community organizers and activists who’ve been leading the charge on police accountability. (To learn more, read Continuing the Conversation about Public Safety.)
Dental Care Access
Everyone deserves a healthy smile, no matter our race, where we live, or what insurance we can afford. Unfortunately, we do not all get the same access to dental care. In 2019, only 23% of adults with Medicaid dental coverage could find a dentist to treat them. There are simply not enough dental providers who see patients covered by Medicare, Apple Health, or who are without dental insurance, forcing us to travel long distances to find care, or more often, simply go without.
What we’re fighting for:
- Expanding Dental Therapy for everyone in Washington: Dental therapy is a model of care developed by tribes in the Pacific Northwest to meet the unique needs of each community and help repair harm caused by medical institutions. Washington lawmakers have the opportunity to support tribal sovereignty and follow their lead to make sure we can all get the dental care we need.
- Supporting a $2M Investment in Skagit Valley College’s Dental Therapy Program: Skagit Valley College, in partnership with Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, developed the first CODA-accredited Dental Therapy Education Program in the Washington state to address ongoing oral health workforce disparities among underrepresented minorities, specifically the American Indian/Alaska Native communities. This program is an innovative solution to grow primary oral health providers for tribal communities that face oral health care access challenges, empowering Tribal members to get the training they need to provide culturally competent care to their communities.
- Supporting $6M in dental capital investments for community health centers: Community health clinics are a key source of healthcare for individuals statewide, but they currently lack physical capacity to provide adequate oral healthcare. Clinics sometimes lack dental chairs or office space for dental care, which makes providing care difficult or impossible. This investment would make oral healthcare locally accessible and easier for Washingtonians to receive dental care close to home.