We all deserve to have what we need to survive and live healthy lives. No one should ever have to worry about how to pay for their next meal or next month’s rent. This is possible when we have fully-funded safety net programs that are designed so we are treated with dignity and respect when we ask for help.

The goal of state-funded safety net programs is to protect adults and children from the harmful effects of deep poverty. However, what we hear in our listening sessions is that people feel distrusted and dehumanized in the complicated process of trying to access the help they need. People making enormous profits in our state use negative stereotypes about people living in poverty to influence our representatives and keep us from standing together against their injustice.

Washington’s safety net programs offer a lifeline of critical support, but only a fraction of what would provide people in our state an exit out of poverty toward the possibility of good health and peace of mind.

Poverty Action advocates for policies that ensure fair access to a baseline of financial stability. Our basic needs work is focused on three programs in particular: one that supports families with children, and two that support adults with disabilities.

Assistance for Families with Children

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) / WorkFirst is intended to protect children and families from the trauma and debilitating impact of deep poverty. The program provides cash assistance and child care so parents can meet job search and training requirements with the goal to gain employment. Although there are 30% more families with children living in deep poverty today than a decade ago, the state’s TANF program is serving 30,000 fewer families than ten years ago. That’s tens of thousands of children in poverty who have been left behind by cuts to funding and more restrictions on who is eligible.

What We’re Doing About It:

Woman holding sign that reads TANF IS...a lifeline and way to keep our families safe and warm while we get back on our feet.

Poverty Action supports extending protections that ensure equitable access to financial help and a fair recovery from the long-lasting impacts of COVID-19.


Assistance for Adults With Disabilities

Washington state offers temporary financial assistance to eligible adults with a mental illness or physical disability. We focus on the two following programs:

  • Housing and Essential Needs (HEN)– a program for people living on extremely low incomes and diagnosed with a significant mental illness or physical disability. The program provides rent, utility, and transportation assistance, as well as access to health and hygiene items. While HEN is a highly effective program for preventing homelessness, not enough funding has significantly limited its impact. As a result, people needing help are left on waitlists indefinitely. 
  • Aged, Blind, and Disabled (ABD)— this program provides some cash assistance of up to $197 a month to people with a permanent mental illness or physical disability and little to no income. The ABD cash grant remains at an all-time low after being slashed during the Great Recession, meaning recipients have fewer resources for out-of-pocket expenses.

What We’re Doing About It:

Poverty Action supports policies that prioritize the health, wellness, and stability of Washingtonians with disabilities living on low incomes.

We advocate for:

  • Adding measures to ensure financial stability as COVID-19 protections are set to expire.
  • Increasing cash grants to meet the real, everyday needs of those of us living on the lowest incomes.