The 2021 Washington State Legislative Session is over -- ending the first ever “virtual” session where legislators, advocates and lobbyists operated remotely, often from their homes, in an effort to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 spread. This year’s session resulted in a number of actions that will move the needle on priorities set by United Ways of the Pacific Northwest - Washington. Congratulations to you and your network for building good relations with your legislative delegation.
Economic Recovery and Support for Struggling Families and Individuals
With the ALICE report identifying over 40 percent of families struggling to pay bills (before the pandemic), the Legislature made big strides to reduce poverty by getting more money into the hands of lower-income households. Most notably, the Legislature updated and funded the Working Families Tax Credit which will result in an estimated 420,000 households receiving state tax rebates of between $300 and $1,200, starting in 2023. The $59.2 Billion 2021-23 biennial budget approved by the Legislature contains an additional $10 billion in federal money and holds back $1.1 billion in federal dollars to account for unanticipated needs. Here’s the Statewide Poverty Action Network bill tracker for information on other legislative poverty reduction initiatives.
Child Care and Early Learning for Working Families
The Legislature approved SB 5237, the Fair Start for Kids Act. The new two-year state budget includes an unprecedented investment in child care, including $360 million for child care grants for all licensed providers, inclusive of child care centers and family homes. This funding is expected to increase compensation for roughly 10,000 child care workers. The state budget also includes $30 million for health coverage for child care workers through the Health Benefit Exchange. For more on early learning development this session, check out the Start Early legislative summary.
Affordable Housing and Solving the Homeless Public Health Crisis
The Legislature approved HB 1277 which will create the Eviction Prevention Rental Assistance funded by a fee on real estate transactions. The Governor has signed into law SB 5160 providing tools to protect tenants and landlords as we move out of the pandemic and its resulting eviction moratorium. Also approved by the Legislature, HB 1236 amends the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, ending the practice of giving tenants a 20 day “no cause” eviction notice and defining in detail conditions that would allow eviction or refusal to extend tenancy. Over $1 billion has been authorized through Legislative approved budgets to address the housing needs of people in Washington, including: $350 million in the capital budget to build and preserve affordable homes, $658 million for rental assistance, $187 million for foreclosure prevention, $72 million for shelter and housing for people experiencing homelessness and $27 million increase to the Housing and Essential Needs rental assistance program.
Fully Funding the 2-1-1 Call System Request
The two-year operating budget now before the Governor for his consideration authorizes $3 million for the system during the 2021-23 biennium. While Washington 211 has seen significant growth in call volume as a result of COVID-19, non-pandemic related calls into the system also increased substantially.
We couldn’t have done all of this without your work and the excellent coalitions we are a part of. We sincerely thank you for all of your efforts!