The 2019 Legislature finished on time and in the nick of time to avoid a special session. In doing so, the Legislature passed new two-year operating and capital budgets and some legislation that offers good news regarding our agenda.
Here are highlights of the 2019 Legislative Session grouped by our four agenda goals.
Build Economic Mobility for Struggling Families and Individuals
The centerpiece of this agenda item, the Working Family Tax Credit, gained momentum this year with hearings in the House and Senate. The family credit was included in a Senate tax reform proposal that did not have enough votes to pass. Such a major reform is going to require more time. Meanwhile, the approved budget (pending Governor signature) increased funding by 25 percent for the Housing and Essential Needs. This program provides rental, utility, transportation assistance and hygiene supplies to very low-income adults . Also, the Legislature passed, and supported in the budget, HB 1603 (which we've been following on our tracking list). This bill eliminates the ability to permanently disqualify households from receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and extends the TANF time limit for recipients who experience homelessness.
Increase Access, Affordability, and Quality of Early Learning Programs and Resources
The Legislature affirmed its support of quality, affordable and accessible child care with the adoption of HB 1344, calling for a regional assessment of the child care industry by July of next year and the development of a phased implementation plan for improving the Working Connections Child Care program, which provides subsidized child care to working families in need. The Legislature also approved SB 5437, which expands access to the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and creates an early childhood pilot program for birth to three year old children. The state's budget makes it possible for an additional 1170 children to benefit from early childhood education.
End Homelessness and Increase Access to Affordable Housing
The Legislature approved a capital budget with the largest ever two-year funding for the Housing Trust Fund ($175 million) capable of building nearly 5,000 more affordable homes across the state. Leveraging that funding is a new source of income for local communities to build affordable homes. HB 1406 provides a revenue sharing option for local governments dedicated to affordable housing. Two other bills amend the state's Residential Landlord-Tenant Act by allowing tenants 14 days (instead of three) to catch up on late rent before eviction (SB 5600) and by providing 60 days notice (instead of 30 days) regarding rent increases (HB 1440)
Fully Fund the 2-1-1 Call System to Ensure Access to Critical Human Services and Resources
The Legislative budget provided a $1 million over its base funding Washington 211 received $1 million -- getting that system a long way toward handling the system's call growth.
A big thank you and congratulations to the United Way lobbyist Nick Federici who played a key role in pushing funding for Washington 2-1-1 and housing to the finish line. This is an excellent time to contact your legislators and thank them for their hard work and long hours during the session and their support for the United Way agenda promoting health families and strong communities.