UWPNW Washington Legislative Update - June 9, 2020

COVID-19, poverty and racial injustice weighs heavily on all our minds and is reprioritizing issues of significance to the United Ways of the Pacific Northwest. The pandemic has widened and called out systemic fissures in our society that make it difficult to promote healthy families. A consensus appears to be emerging among state and national advocacy groups that while short term relief is essential, it is time, in fact long overdue, for enduring structural solutions. UWPNW maintains engagement on these issues and their statewide coalitions on behalf of United Ways. Here is a run down of our advocacy positions on our key legislative priorities.

Economic Mobility of Struggling Families
It’s significant that the first strategy laid out by the Governor’s Poverty Reduction Work Group’s recently released 10-year comprehensive plan  is to “Understand structural racism and historical trauma, and take action to undo their harmful effects in state policy and programs.” There is no denying that a colorblind virus has had a disproportionate and discriminatory effect on people of color and low-income workers. With the COVID recession possibly resulting in budget cuts to social and health services, these populations will once again be taking on more than their share of the recession’s burden.The typical response, and still appropriate in this case, is to protect funding for health services, income support, food assistance, employment and other essential services. When prevention and early intervention services are not prioritized, we inevitably spend more in the long run rebuilding. But more importantly, the same people take the brunt of the suffering. So to go beyond the typical response, to achieve a NEW NORMAL, reform of our state’s revenue system needs to happen. To that end, the Balance Our Tax Code Coalition has a petition to the Legislature on its website demanding reform.

Access, Affordability, and Quality of Early Learning Programs 
Early learning and child care advocacy groups are lining up in support of Senator Patty Murray’s Child Care is Essential Act. (Proposal summary from the House sponsor Rep. Luisa DeLauro’s office.) Meanwhile, the Early Learning Action Alliance seeks to get all CARES Act stimulus funding distributed as soon as possible to enable providers to reopen or stay open. The COVID-19 restrictions have caused many operators to close temporarily, possibly affecting their state funding. This loss of funding could have a long-term effect on capacity. Thus advocates seek Working Connections Child Care payments based on March (before the restrictions were imposed) rather than actual attendance during the emergency period. But there’s concern about how declining revenues may impact funding for this program and the authorized operator rate increase scheduled for July. On another front, the Early Childhood Policy Fellowship has formed to increase representation and influence by people of color in early childhood systems. The fellowship is aimed at strengthening a pipeline of early childhood leaders of color who will shape the future policies of our early childhood systems. Part of that process is an online survey open until June 18th.  

Homelessness and Affordable Housing
The best way to avoid homelessness is to keep people from losing their homes in the first place. Since the COVID restrictions have been longer than initially expected, clearly, the eviction moratorium needs to be extended and more rental assistance and temporary housing is needed to ensure social distancing. Even with many returning to work, others have not and even with those who have returned to work, it will take time to get full paychecks. The Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance has laid out 12 steps that Governor Inslee should take to increase housing security. Here’s how your organization can sign on to that letter. Here’s how individuals can sign on to that letter. Supporters are using social media using the hashtags #WeNeedMoreTime and #ExtendEvictionBan to encourage the Governor (@GovInslee, @WAStateGov) to take action.  

WA and OR United Ways are Meeting with our Congressional Members
Working in concert with United Way Worldwide, teams of United Way CEOs will be meeting (virtually) in the coming weeks with our US Senators or staff and select US Representatives. The purpose of these meetings are to discuss the roles United Ways have taken during the COVID crisis and talk about the critical policies and resources required by our Federal government for recovery.