UWPNW Washington Legislative Update - February 26, 2020 - Budgets!

This is a critical week for timely advocacy as the Senate and House process the state's supplemental operating and capital spending plans. While the final numbers still need to be negotiated, we should expect an increased state investment in early learning and housing this year. Regarding the funding for the Washington 211 upgrade however, only the House budget at this time includes funding. Please consider taking the actions requested below. 

House Budget Includes Washington 211 Upgrades But Not Senate
Thank you to the state House of Representatives for including $200,000 for the Washington 211 technology upgrade in its proposed 2019-21 supplemental operating budget. Unfortunately, the Senate version does not include this needed funding.  Please contact your Senators in your service area now, regardless of their party or whether they serve on a given committee, with a message like this:

"Please support the $200,000 provision included in the House Operating Budget to update and upgrade outdated telephone and telecommunications equipment for the statewide 211 program. Please request that Senators Rolfes, Frockt, and Braun adopt this funding provision in their budget negotiations with the House. At a time when we face a potential pandemic, Washington needs, more than ever, an efficient up-to-date system to respond to questions about health services and other community resources."

A Commitment to Early Learning 
The House proposed budget allots $56 million to bring Working Connections Child Care program rates to 75 percent of the market rate. The Senate budget provides only $17 million to bring rates to 67 percent. Both proposed budgets provided needed increases to Early Childhood Education Assistance Program provider rates (House at $9.6 million and Senate at $2.8 million). Both the House and Senate propose adding $5 million to diminish the “cliff effect” for lower wage earners whose families suffer a net economic loss when they lose benefits because of a modest wage increase. Overall, the House budget is much more favorable to providing the type of investments in child care and early learning sought by United Ways.  Please contact your Senators asking them to support the House early learning budget proposals in the conference committee.

A Commitment to Housing and Shelters 
The Senate budget would spend about $115 million on homelessness reduction and prevention, including grants to communities to increase shelter capacity and additional funding for the Housing and Essential Needs program. The proposed House budget dedicates $235 million to build more affordable housing and crisis shelters, and for community shelter grants. Again, the House budget is much more aggressive in tackling our homelessness crisis. Meanwhile, two bills that would make it easier to get into and stay in permanent housing are still active. HB 1694 would allow tenants to pay upfront payments such as deposit and first and last month rent in installments stretching to three months. SB 6378 would establish a process for using emergency rental assistance funds to stay an eviction. Both bills receive committee hearings this week.