Attorney Katie Scott sees firsthand the real-world impacts of laws and regulations on people who rely on public benefits to survive. When she and colleagues in our Benefits Legal Assistance program spot repeat problems clients face – or opportunities to increase access to resources – they work to identify better ideas and move legislators toward policies that more equitably help people to succeed.
Last week they were in Olympia pushing for a number of changes in laws most people have not heard much about that will make big changes for the people they work with. HB 2371, for instance, would increase TANF grants (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) by bringing back the Child Support Pass Through. This allows TANF recipients to retain some of their child support along with TANF.
Here is Katie’s testimony in support of HB 2371:
“My name is Katie Scott and I am a Benefits Attorney with Solid Ground, a nonprofit organization in King County. I represent people in Administrative Hearings regarding their DSHS benefits, so I am intimately aware of how TANF regulations can help or hurt my clients. I also have the pleasure of working with current and former TANF families on a weekly basis.
“One thing I have learned in many years of working with people living in poverty is that no one wants to rely on government benefits such as TANF to meet their basic needs. Many people end up on TANF due to a series of traumatic events – the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, domestic violence, or medical problems.
“For these families, TANF is the safety net that many of us are lucky to have in family and friends or in investments and savings accounts. Unfortunately, the TANF benefit amount is not enough to achieve the stability needed to move on from these traumatic events, let alone to get ahead – it is merely a stop-gap to prevent utter disaster for these families and particularly for children.
“For these families, TANF is the safety net that many of us are lucky to have in family and friends or in investments and savings accounts.” ~Katie Scott, Benefits Attorney
“Don’t get me wrong – it’s a much needed stop-gap. But pretty much everything has to go right for families to permanently and successfully transition off the TANF program. Some families cycle off and on several times before successfully leaving the program – others simply hit the 60-month time limit and are forced to leave the program without any positive change in their income or prospects.
“That is why I support any measure that would enable TANF recipients to increase their monthly income while still on the program. TANF recipients need more opportunities to get ahead in order to leave the program successfully. By reinstating the child support pass-through, HB 2371 would do just that – in some cases it would increase a TANF recipient’s monthly income by 20%. This is a huge boon to families where every cent counts. I encourage you to support this simple and cost-effective way of helping TANF recipients increase their income and leave the program.”
Katie testifies today on the Senate version of the bill, SB 6503. HB 2371 is next scheduled for an Executive Session in the House Committee on Judiciary on Wednesday January 24, 2019 at 8am.