This session, anti-poverty advocates were successful in passing important funding increases for several of the state’s safety net programs, including Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) and Pregnant Women’s Assistance (PWA). These increases recently went into effect on July 1.

HEN serves people who are experiencing homelessness and a physical and/or mental health disability, and provides rent assistance and basic hygiene supplies. While HEN is a highly effective program that can ensure low-income people with disabilities remain housed, many county-level HEN providers had incurred significant wait-lists to access the program.

The work of anti-poverty and housing advocates was instrumental in securing the first increase in funding for HEN since the program’s inception in 2011. Its biennial (two year) budget increased funding for the program by $14.5 million, bringing its annual budget to nearly $73.5 million. With the start of the fiscal year on July 1, this boost in funds has allowed counties to begin to serve new HEN clients once again, and it ensures more people who are experiencing housing instability will be served each year. Even still, this important funding boost is not enough to serve all eligible Washingtonians. Poverty Action will continue to advocate for adequate HEN funds to fully serve everyone who needs access to this vital program.

Parents receiving Pregnant Women’s Assistance (PWA) also received a notable funding increase this session. As of July 1, program participants’ monthly grant has increased to $363, up from $197. PWA provides cash assistance supports to people who are pregnant but ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) due to time-limit restrictions or permanent disqualifications for repeated sanctions. Due to legislation also passed by Poverty Action this session (Second Substitute House Bill 1603 ) which makes key changes to TANF’s time-limit policies as well as eliminating permanent disqualifications, many PWA participants will be again eligible for TANF’s more significant monthly grant and supportive services once the policy changes go into effect on July 28.

We will have a blog post detailing all policy changes to TANF in a couple weeks—stay tuned for more!