OLYMPIA – The Senate unanimously passed legislation today to provide access to public assistance to certain victims of human trafficking by expanding eligibility for state food assistance, family assistance, and medical care services programs.
Under Senate Bill 5164, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), noncitizens would be able to access these programs if they have taken steps to obtain status under federal laws that protect victims of human trafficking and serious crimes. Qualifying family members would also be eligible for assistance.
“While we would like to think human trafficking does not exist in our state, it does. Trafficked women, men, and children seeking to free themselves often face losing their housing and employment, which is tied up with their trafficker,” said Saldaña. “This legislation removes the barriers to critical life-saving services when people are in their most vulnerable moment and most need them. I am proud to have worked with API-CHAYA, Seattle Against Slavery, and Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, who are the frontline leaders in eliminating trafficking in Washington State.”
“As a former sex crimes prosecutor, I know how important it is for survivors of trafficking to have the vital services to transition out of a life of exploitation,” said Rep. Mike Pellicciotti (D-Federal Way), sponsor of the companion, House Bill 1971. “I appreciate Sen. Saldaña’s leadership on this bill, and I look forward to voting yes in the House of Representatives.”
This legislation builds on a law that passed in the 2018 legislative session, House Bill 1022, which addressed law enforcement agency certifications for noncitizens who qualify for visas for victims of human trafficking and other serious crimes. SB 5164 gives victims the opportunity to apply for services while they are in the process of obtaining visas.
The bill now moves to the House for consideration.