UWPNW Washington Legislative Update - March 3, 2021

This week, state legislative activity is almost exclusively in (virtual) assembly as the full bodies of the House and the Senate debate bills that have passed at least one committee. It’s a good opportunity to review the United Ways of the Pacific Northwest legislative priorities in terms of this session.

Ensure Equitable Economic Recovery and Support for Struggling Families and Individuals
Three bills of strong interest are still active. The House has passed HB 1151 which allows for cash assistance for qualified households and more than one payment in a 12-month period through Consolidated Emergency Assistance when directed by the Governor. SB 5214, which would provide an extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant eligibility, is in Senate Rules. And the Working Family Tax Credit bill is now before the full House on second reading. Along with our United Ways, the Statewide Poverty Action Network has made this bill a priority and created this page to coordinate support for the bill.

Increase Access, Affordability and Quality of Child Care and Early Learning for Working Families
The Fair Start for Kids Act continues to move through the House and Senate. HB 1213 is up for consideration by the full House this week while its companion SB 5237 is in Senate Rules. The bills have been amended in committee and are no longer the same as first released. A number of organizations have rallied for this omnibus bill. Here is a list with links to their action pages: 

Save the Children Action Network      

Children’s Alliance

Child Care Aware of Washington

League of Education Voters

Washington Association of Head Start and ECEAP

Increase Access to Affordable Housing and Invest in Solutions to the Homeless Public Health Crisis
The Legislature continues to move forward on eviction reform bills - SB 1236 specifies exclusive causes for eviction, refusal to renew, and termination of tenancy and SB 5160 provides certain tenant protections during the public health emergency, providing for legal representation in eviction cases, establishing an eviction resolution pilot program for nonpayment of rent cases, and authorizing landlord access to certain rental assistance programs. SB 1236 is in House Rules Committee while SB 5160 is before the full Senate on the Second Reading calendar. Two other House Bills would provide funding options for local governments to combat homelessness and encourage affordable housing. HB 1069 and HB 1070 have passed the House and are in the Senate Committee on Housing and Local Government.

Ensure Efficient Access to Human Services and Resources by Fully Funding the 2-1-1 Call System
The WA 211 priority issue this year is the $3 million biennial request for the operating budget which is $1 million higher than current budget. Washington 211 has experienced phenomenal growth in call volume since the pandemic began and additional resources are needed to reduce call waits and improve the network’s ability to ramp up at peak times. We are also following the progress of the national 988 system. HB 1477 outlines a strategy for how to develop the plan for implementing the national 988 system in our state. The bill would also create a dedicated revenue source for the suicide prevention and behavioral health crisis line.