OLYMPIA – Today, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a measure that expands access to public assistance for victims of human trafficking.
Senate Bill 5164, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), expands eligibility for state food assistance, family assistance, and medical care services programs. Under the new law, noncitizens will 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 will also be eligible for assistance.
“Tragically, human trafficking is a serious problem in our state. Trafficked adults and children seeking to free themselves often risk losing their housing and employment, which are tied up with their trafficker,” said Saldaña. “This legislation removes barriers to critical life-saving services when people are in their most vulnerable moment and most need them.”
Saldaña said she developed the bill her first year in the Senate with API-CHAYA, Seattle Against Slavery, and Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, who are frontline leaders in eliminating trafficking in Washington State. She introduced it three other times before it made it all the way to the Governor’s desk.
“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.”
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. The law signed today gives victims the opportunity to apply for services while in the process of obtaining visas.
The new law will take effect on Feb. 1, 2022.