UWPNW Washington Legislative Update - March 29, 2021

Last week, the Legislature focused on releasing and hearing testimony on budget proposals - capital and operating spending guidance for the next biennium. Here is the proposed substitute Senate budget (SB 5092) and the proposed substitute House budget (HB 1094)

One More Chance to Indicate Support for Working Family Tax Credit 
The Senate Committee on Ways and Means meets Tuesday afternoon to take testimony on HB 1297 that would update and simplify the application of the state’s Working Family Tax Credit. This poverty fighting tax credit has yet to be funded during its 12 years as a law. Yet, both Senate and House budget proposals allocate funding for the program and there is growing bipartisan support for the program. You can indicate your support for this program from your computer, by using this link to sign in “pro”. You can also submit written testimony directly to the committee via this link

Fair Start for Children Cited Extensively in Senate & House Budgets
The omnibus legislation for improving access and affordability of childcare and early learning in Washington has cleared almost all hurdles EXCEPT for one that indicates that the House and Senate are in agreement. Both the House and Senate versions of the Fair Start Act for Children are now in the fiscal committees of the opposite house. House Bill 1213 is in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and SB 5237 is in the House Appropriations Committee. Both these committees have released budget proposals which cite the Fair Start Act a dozen times, providing guidance for state and federal spending to implement the legislation. However, there are still some differences between the two approaches that will need to be worked out.

Legislative Budgets Target Housing and Homeless
Both the House and Senate majority caucuses have proposed two-year budgets that direct state and federal dollars to helping keep people in their homes with rental and homeowner assistance as well building shelter capacity and encouraging creation of affordable homes. It’s still early in terms of analyzing the proposals but here is a spreadsheet of the operating budget proposals and capital budget proposals by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance Action Fund. 

House Budget Funds One Time Cash Benefit When Food Benefits End
The operating budget proposal by the House Committee on Appropriations includes almost $1 million for the next biennium to fund a one-time, cash benefit for households with children receiving food benefits, and not simultaneously receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The benefit is to be issued  in the final month of eligibility when the household's food benefits terminate. Last week, the Senate approved HB 1151 which authorizes the benefit in statute.

Washington 211 Gets Back to Current Funding Level But No Increase Yet
Both the House and Senate budgets included the full $2 million funding level that Washington 211 Information Network received during the current biennium. However, it was seeking an additional $1 million to handle significant growth in call volume. Washington 211 advocates participated in the budget hearings over the weekend to thank legislators for ensuring current funding and to request the additional $1 million.