Now that the mid-term election is over, its time to focus on the upcoming two-year budget session. The United Ways of Washington have released their state policy goals for the 2023 and 2024 legislative term. Once again, children, homelessness and poverty are targets for attention along with creating a statewide disaster fund account and increasing capacity of the 2-1-1 calling system.
Continue and Expand State Investment in Child Care and Early Learning
Washington’s United Ways seeks further state investment in the Fair Start for Kids Act which will help more families access quality child care and early learning programs. To ensure quality though, investments are needed in retaining and recruiting staff, including highly skilled and multilingual educators. This year’s legislative agenda also includes increased investments in child care mental health consultation and the complex needs grants for ECEAP and child care. Also, see below for an update on the Imagination Library.
Increasing Access to Affordable Housing and Seeking Solutions to Homelessness
In this upcoming legislative term, Washington’s United Ways are seeking policies and incentives that will boost creation of affordable housing, as well as state investments in the Housing Trust Fund and adequate permanent supportive housing. In addition, the agenda includes establishing a new local option and state real estate excise tax dedicated to creating affordable housing.
Washington’s Efforts Toward Guaranteed Basic Income and Working Families Tax Credit
The legislative agenda also reiterates United Ways' commitment to economic justice and equity by supporting statewide Guaranteed Basic Income programs. Check out some of our state's efforts in this area including City of Tacoma’s GRIT program, the Perigee Fund, and a small pilot program provided through the work of Rainier Beach Action Coalition, Urban Family and King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay. Here’s a Crosscut article on the same.
Bringing 211 Service Up to Full Capacity in Washington
The state’s 211 three-digit dialing network for essential services has served over five million callers since it started operations. Two of the centers are operated by United Ways. This call service provides a personal connection with people in crisis and efficiently guides them to the service they need to make their lives a bit better. Unfortunately, the service has never been fully funded. As part of ensuring economic equity, United Ways of Washington are supporting additional funding for this service.
Spokane County United Way Latest to Affiliate with the Imagination Library
The Imagination Library of Washington enrollment, children up to five years of age who receive a new book each month, cleared 38,000 thanks to a big boost in September registrations via new affiliate Spokane County United Way. Washington was ranked number three nationally for the most enrolled children for that month. Currently, there are 25 fully covered counties, eight partially covered counties, and seven non-covered counties. More programs are expected to launch in San Juan, Ferry, Lincoln, Benton, Franklin and Island counties. The goal is to extend coverage over all of Washington. Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal has listed the Imagination Library of Washington in his legislative budget package for $5 million.