OLYMPIA – Anti-poverty advocates are celebrating significant investments in our state’s social safety net proposed in Governor Jay Inslee’s supplemental budget, released this afternoon. The proposed investments in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), State Family Assistance (SFA), Pregnant Women’s Assistance (PWA), Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA), Aged, Blind or Disabled (ABD) assistance, and the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) program would support extremely low-income families and people with disabilities in remaining stably housed and meeting essential needs.
Washington state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, State Family Assistance, and Pregnant Women’s Assistance programs support very low-income families with access to cash assistance, childcare, and the necessary supports to pursue education, job training, and address employment barriers. Refugee Cash Assistance provides cash assistance and medical care to refugees during their first eight months in the U.S. The Housing & Essential Needs and Aged, Blind, or Disabled assistance programs support people with short- or long-term physical or mental health disabilities with access to cash and housing support.
The Governor’s proposal would eliminate the state’s policy of providing reduced cash grants for TANF, SFA, PWA, RCA, and ABD if a family or individual has a no-cost housing arrangement. The elimination of this shelter penalty would provide a critical increase in resources for people with very low incomes. The current maximum TANF, SFA, and RCA cash grant for a sheltered family of three ($345/month) is only 19 percent of the Federal Poverty Line. The ABD cash grant for sheltered people with permanent disabilities is far lower, with the maximum cash grant of $120/month only 12 percent of the Federal Poverty Line.
“These programs are truly the last line of assistance for struggling people and families in our state,” said David Hlebain, Basic Needs Campaign Manager at Statewide Poverty Action Network. “The elimination of these shelter penalties will remove significant barriers families face to meeting their most essential needs.”
The Governor also proposes investing an additional $26 million into the state’s Housing & Essential Needs program. The program provides recipients with a rental voucher and access to health and hygiene supplies while they either recover from a short-term disability or as they work to transition to federal disability benefits. While the legislature increased HEN’s budget by $14.5 million during the 2019 Legislative Session, the additional funds would go far in addressing homelessness in local communities.
“The Housing & Essential Needs program is rightly seen by policymakers as an effective tool for addressing homelessness in local communities across the state and preventing homelessness for people with short or long-term disabilities,” said Hlebain. “The Governor’s proposed investment recognizes that the need for this housing support far exceeds the current budget allocation.”
Advocates stress that the investments proposed by the Governor’s budget are especially urgent because Washington state has never fully re-invested in social service programs after dramatically slashing cash grants and restricting access to these programs during the Great Recession. For example, the maximum ABD cash grant of $197 remains far below the pre-recession grant of $339. Stricter policies for accessing TANF have meant fewer families living in poverty can access support. Prior to the recession, 50 out of every 100 families living in poverty in Washington state were able to access support. Today, the TANF program serves just 25 of every 100 families in poverty in Washington.
“We applaud Governor Inslee for putting forth a budget proposal that recognizes Washington state is strongest when all people are able to meet their basic needs,” said Hlebain. “Advocates look forward to working with state lawmakers to ensure these proposals are funded in this year’s supplemental budget.”