UWPNW Washington Legislative Update - March 19, 2020

Despite being in the midst of our COVID-19 challenges, the 2020 Legislative Session is over but the work done by legislators, staff and advocates will extend beyond last week’s “sine die.”  Read on as to how this session furthered the legislative priorities of the United Ways of the Pacific Northwest.

Increase Access, Affordability, and Quality of Early Learning Programs and Resources
A number of legislative accomplishments move us closer to the above goal. The legislature authorized almost $32 million to increase rates for providers accepting state “Working Connections Child Care” clients. Additional funding will result in capping co-pay rates to 12 percent of family income. The legislature also created a second tier of eligibility to reduce the “cliff effect” caused when modest pay raises result in a net loss of family income. Nearly $7 million increases the rates for Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program providers. Here is a more complete list of early learning achievements, including the extension of the Working Connections grace period for homeless families.

End Homelessness and Increase Access to Affordable Housing
The 2020 Supplemental Capital Budget added $40 million to the Housing Trust Fund to build affordable homes. Another $10 million will go to preserve currently affordable homes that are at risk of losing affordability requirements. Another $68 million will be targeted for temporary shelter space. Also, a number of bills were passed to better protect renters such as HB 1694 which would allow tenants to pay some of the upfront rental entry costs in installments. The Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance has created a more comprehensive summary of affordable housing achievements for this session.

Build Economic Mobility for Struggling Families and Individuals
Statewide Poverty Action Network laid out a recap on the 2020 Legislative Session that includes a summary of bills that make changes to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (HB 2441 and SB 5144), as well as improvements to consumer protections and justice reforms. 

Fully Fund 211 Call System to Ensure Access to Critical Human Services and Resources
The state legislature authorized $200,000 for Washington 211 to upgrading telecommunications and other equipment at 211 call centers. This is a timely investment as the Washington 211 call centers are now under contract with the state’s Department of Health to serve as the principal call center for public calls regarding COVID-19.