UWPNW Washington Legislative Update - February 2, 2021

The virtual nature of the 2021 Washington State Legislative Session is having an impact both in the pace and public engagement. While fewer bills have been considered, public participation is breaking records. For instance, 3,600 people signed in to comment during a public hearing on gun legislation recently. You can file written comments on legislation through the state’s Legislative website. Where appropriate, we’ve provided a comment link in this newsletter. 

Legislative Recovery Rebate for Working Families
House and Senate committees are taking up bills that would update the Working Families Tax Credit to provide a Recovery Rebate of $500 per qualifying household, plus another $150 per child up to $450. Please join the United Way of King County’s online outreach effort on this legislation. It only takes a minute or so to register your support. The bills are HB 1297 in the House Committee on Finance and SB 5387 in the Senate Committee on Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation 

Greater Flexibility on Local Housing Option Tax Considered HB 1070 has advanced to the House Committee on Rules. This bill amends legislation passed last year that created a local sales tax option for cities and counties to fund housing and related services to also use those funds for affordable housing, facilities providing housing-related services, behavioral health-related facilities, or land for these purposes. The bill would also allow King County to use a portion of the state-shared lodging tax for housing homeless youth. Here’s the legislative comment page for HB 1070.

Excluding Certain Pandemic-Related UI Benefits  from Determining Child Care Eligibility
The Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education approved SB 5023 which would authorize the state agency managing the Working Connections Child Care program to determine eligibility without including certain pandemic income protection programs such as the $600 in additional weekly unemployment benefits issued under the CARES Act and benefits received under the Federal Lost Wages Assistance Program. The bill is now in Ways and Means. Here's the legislative comment page for SB 5023

Washington 211 Calls Slammed by COVID Immunization Calls
Washington 211, which experienced roughly a 70 percent increase in calls last year, has seen calls skyrocket recently as Washingtonians pursue information on the COVID-19 vaccination. January calls into the Washington 211 system more than doubled from the year before. And calls hit an all-time high of over 10,000 on January 27. The seven regional call centers are bringing on new agents to handle the volume. Washington 211 seeks a $1 million increase in its state biennial funding for this year (for a total of $3 million). Please let your legislators know how important this system is to helping citizens find accurate information during these difficult times.