OLYMPIA – Washingtonians caught in the cycle of intergenerational poverty would have greater hope for a pathway to self-sufficiency, under a bill passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the Senate today.

“This bill is about changing the manner in which we think about helping people,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), the bill’s sponsor. “State aid should not merely be a life preserver that keeps people’s heads barely above water; it should be a steppingstone to a self-sufficient life.”

SB 5241, which passed by a vote of 45-3, would help people leverage existing benefits and services to move out of poverty. It would fund economic inclusion grants that communities can apply for to promote equity, economic inclusion, and a stable financial foundation for people experiencing poverty.

“Doling out aid in a miserly way is counterproductive,” said Dhingra. “The goal of this legislation is to help people navigate the system and use the services they are entitled to in a way that will help break the cycle of dependence and allow people to begin to generate the wealth that gives them access to the mainstream economy.”

The bill is the result of the work of the Governor’s Poverty Reduction Work Group and the Legislative-Executive WorkFirst Poverty Reduction Oversight Task Force to develop a 10-year plan to dismantle poverty in Washington.

SB 5241 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. It has until April 11 to be approved by the House to be eligible to become law this year.

The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn on April 25.