Less than a week after the Washington State Senate passed its 2013-2015 biennial budget that makes drastic and devastating cuts to housing and homelessness prevention programs, low-income families spent the morning bracing themselves for more bad news from the State House—bad news that never came. This afternoon the House released their budget, which proposes $1.34 billion in new revenue and protects funding for services that low-income families, children, seniors, and people with disabilities depend on to meet their basic needs.
With low-income families still reeling from nearly $11 billion in cuts since 2009, anti-poverty advocates were pleased that the House preserved our state’s safety net. According to Marcy Bowers, director of the Statewide Poverty Action Network, these programs ensure that low-income families and adults can access the health care and support they need to survive.
In stark contrast to the Senate, the House made important investments in our state’s safety net, including:
· Maintaining full funding for Aged, Blind, & Disabled (ABD) and Housing & Essential Needs (HEN), which ensure that low-income adults with disabilities can access food and housing;
· Making new investments in Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) to help low-income parents access and afford childcare;
· Funding emergency housing assistance for homeless families;
· Supporting the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid Expansion to provide healthcare for 300,000 low-income adults; and
· Fully funding the Medicaid Adult Dental program beginning in January 2014. Under the ACA, the federal government will pay for 100% of Adult Dental, but only if the state already offers this coverage.
“This budget is one that recognizes that people with low incomes have suffered enough from our state’s budget woes,” said Bowers. “We applaud the House for helping ensure that people with low incomes will be able to have enough food to eat, pay their rent and utilities, and buy clothing and school supplies for their kids.”
While pleased with the proposal overall, advocates had hoped for a stronger investment in two critical programs: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which helps families with incomes below 30% of the Federal Poverty Level afford the basics, and State Food Assistance (SFA), which ensures that immigrant families have enough to eat. In both cases, the House prevented new cuts, but declined to restore deep cuts from 2011.
With the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction reporting that there are 27,000 homeless K-12 students in Washington, advocates had hoped for increased support for TANF and SFA in order to help families and students avoid hunger and homelessness.
“The House has confirmed its commitment to our state’s safety net, as well as addressed the need for new, sustainable revenue,” said Bowers. “As the legislature proceeds with budget negotiations, we hope they will all agree to support essential public services, invest in education, and create hope for the future.”