On Tuesday, February 28, low-income families across the state heard welcomed news from the Washington State Senate. Earlier today the Senate released its proposed supplemental budget, which protects, maintains, and even restores some lost funding to essential services for low-income children, families, immigrants, seniors, and people with disabilities.
With low-income families still reeling from over $4 billion in cuts from the 2011 Legislative Session, the Senate has taken steps to bolster our state’s safety net programs, including the Basic Health Plan, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Disability Lifeline-Medical, Housing and Essential Needs (formerly Disability Lifeline), Adult Dental, Apple Health for Kids, and Working Connections Child Care (WCCC).
In particular, anti-poverty advocates are pleased with the Senate’s approach to the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) programs, saying that the reinvestments in these two programs will provide immediate relief to families struggling to meet their basic needs, according to Marcy Bowers, director of the Statewide Poverty Action Network.
The opportunity to reinvest in TANF and WCCC came from an estimated $123 million in savings from a caseload under-spend in the programs. Advocates have argued that the additional funds in TANF/WCCC are due to deep cuts to the programs over the past three years, and that those funds should be used to buy back cuts from 2011, including the 15 percent cut to the cash grant. The Senate transfers $54 million to the General Fund, but keeps enough money in the programs to buy back the 15 percent TANF grant cut, restore WCCC eligibility to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, and restore a cap on the number of family members who could receive support to the 2011 level.
“TANF assists me in paying for my rent and basic necessities,” said Renee Jones, a low-income parent from Kent. “This program makes sure I am able to put food on my table and access childcare assistance that allows me to seek out education and gain self-sufficiency.”
“We applaud the Senate for including funds to buy back the 15 percent TANF grant cut from 2011,” said Bowers. “This will help families like Renee’s now, as well as lay the groundwork for success in the future.”
Advocates called the proposal budget good news for low-income communities across Washington. “This budget is one that clearly recognizes that people with low incomes have suffered enough from our state’s budget woes,” said Bowers. “As the economy shows signs of recovery, we are pleased to see a budget that invests in the economic security and recovery of our state’s low-income communities.”
Also in this proposal, the Senate preserves critical services for immigrants and refugees, including the State Food Assistance program, the State Family Assistance program, and Medical Interpreter Services.
“The Senate has voiced its commitment to Washington’s low-income families,” said Bowers. “As the legislature proceeds with budget negotiations, we hope the House will adopt the Senate’s approach to the budget.”