Week Five Legislative Update - United Ways of Washington

The Legislature is finishing its first round of committee work this week with attention starting to shift to the full assembly as the Legislature works through a series of self-imposed deadlines designed to complete legislating by the last day of session on March 7.  Since our priorities are mostly affected by the budget, which is not affected by these deadlines, this is a good time to lay the foundation for support of the following funding issues. Read on.

Preparing for When Early Childhood Education Becomes an Entitlement
The Early Education Action Alliance has an agenda focusing on legislation and funding that will expand capacity, access and stabilize providers. As an example, the Early Childhood Education Assistance Program will expand in preparation for the 2026-27 school year when all eligible early learners will be entitled to a slot in the program. Since the pandemic, providers have rebuilt staff and their operating capacity, and a sustainable slot rate is critical to ensure more children will benefit from this proven program. Governor Inslee’s proposed budget (HB 2104 / SB 5950) targets a six percent rate increase on school day slots and a ten percent rate increase on working day slots.

Washington 211 Lobby Day Targets Budget Process
Advocates for Washington 211 canvassed legislators in Olympia last week in an effort to improve funding for this essential yet under-resourced service. Senators Chris King and Representative Chris Corry have submitted budget requests to their respective fiscal committees that would authorize an additional $4.2 million for Washington 211. Supporters of 211 are encouraged to urge their legislators to support this funding amount. Please message Senators on the Ways and Means Committee and Representatives on the Appropriations Committee.

Another Push for Rent Stabilization Bills
House Bill 2114 and Senate Bill 5961 would limit rent increase for continuing renters to no more than five percent per year and provide other tenant protections such as notice requirements for rent increases exceeding three percent. Last session, the House approved this issue which is high on the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance list of 2024 priorities, Once again, the bill appears to have stalled in the Senate but on Saturday, the House Appropriations bill passed its version of the bill.  On its website, the Housing Alliance contends that “The average monthly rent in Washington is $1,763, meaning a five percent increase would be almost $100 per month. Rent stabilization would provide renters with predictability so they can plan for rent increases in coming years, while still allowing landlords to have enough to make repairs, keep up with costs, and make a profit.”

Imagination Library Receives Critical Funds for this Fiscal Year
The Imagination Library of Washington received the very welcome news that the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, under the leadership of Chris Reykdal, will award $750,000 in one-time bridge funds to meeting the March-June 2024 enrollment projections as the program continues to add young readers beyond the 114,000 already receiving monthly books in the mail. Library leaders from across the state are still requesting $2m in matching funds from the Legislature for the coming fiscal year as the program continues to grow.