A decade ago, while our state was struggling to recover from the Great Recession, the Legislature was hamstrung by voter initiatives that blocked tax increases. I was proud to work with Reps. Laurie Jinkins and David Frockt to bring a lawsuit that ultimately overturned those initiatives and restored simple majority voting to legislative consideration of tax increases.
But while we waited for that decision, the Legislature was forced to slash budgets, repeal bills, delay new legislation and deeply cut spending to balance the budget. We now know that approach prolonged the recession and delayed Washington’s recovery. The cuts hit especially hard for families and individuals in need of supportive services.
Over the last several years, we have worked to increase these vital investments for our most vulnerable neighbors. Here are a few highlights from this year’s legislative session:
- Clients in the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program will receive an 8% cash grant increase starting next year. A family of three with no income will be eligible for $700 monthly, up from $654.
- House Bill 1260 eliminates the requirement that recipients of Aged, Blind, and Disabled (ABD) cash assistance repay funds when they are granted permanent federal disability benefits. Clients on ABD are at severe risk of chronic homelessness and this change will help keep them housed as they transition to federal support.
- House Bill 1447 increases access to TANF and ABD. Asset limits are raised to allow clients to possess $12,000 in assets, plus a car and retirement accounts. Clients will no longer have to spend down assets to use the program. Those who are working will be able to keep $500 on top of the current 50% of earned income.
- House Bill 1128 increases the personal needs allowance from $75 to $100 per month for clients in medical and residential settings. This will allow seniors to retain purchasing power for items like toiletries and clothing despite inflation.
- House Bill 1407 removes a requirement that the Developmental Disabilities Administration re-evaluate children’s eligibility at age 10, eliminating an onerous process that can deprive children living with permanent disabilities of crucial services.
- House Bill 1265 provides a property tax exemption for nonprofit adult family homes that serve people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
- Senate Bill 5370 allows information sharing across state agencies to protect vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect, and personal and financial exploitation.
While there is much more work to be done, I’m proud of the steps we are taking to bolster the safety net for our neighbors who need help with basic needs.
Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter. I will continue to send weekly updates on key policies passed during this year’s legislative session. If you missed my previous updates on gun safety, reproductive freedom, public education, housing, LGBTQ+ rights, climate action, criminal justice reform, health care, community facilities improvements, behavioral health, or voting rights, they are available on my website. Please reach out with any questions at Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov.