OLYMPIA – Families that rely on Washington’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program will see an additional boost in benefits along with clarified expectations under legislation signed into law today by Gov. Inslee.

Senate Bill 5214, sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-West Seattle), will allow more families to continue using the vital social program during times of high statewide unemployment.

The new law will allow for hardship extensions beyond the 60-month lifetime TANF limit if state unemployment is at or above 7 percent.

“Even before the public health crisis we are currently in, it was clear that our communities were not receiving all of the resources they needed to thrive,” said Nguyen. “Now, with an increased need for services for Washington families, it’s more important than ever that we make investments in the families that need an additional boost.”

2020 saw both a spike in unemployment applications and an increased demand for cash and food assistance as the coronavirus pandemic and corresponding public health actions resulted in numerous business closures and reductions statewide.

“We shouldn’t be penalizing people who are unable to find work during an economic crisis,” Nguyen said. “Instead, we should be lifting residents up and using the tools we have to help Washington families get to the other side of a difficult time. This bill guides us in the right direction.”

The 2021-2023 budget approved by the Legislature also includes a 15% grant increase to families that utilize TANF – the single largest increase since the program’s inception. A family of three will see maximum grants increase from $569 to up to $654.

SB 5214 takes effect July 1, 2022. The 2021-2023 operating budget suspends the TANF 60-month time limit until the bill takes effect, ensuring that families in need will continue to stay in the program.