Gov. Jay Inslee signs Second Substitute Senate Bill No. 5347, April 27, 2017. Relating to the definition of work activity for the purposes of the WorkFirst program. Primary Sponsor: Maureen Walsh
Gov. Jay Inslee signs Senate Bill No. 5347 April 27, 2017. Primary Sponsor: Maureen Walsh

This week Poverty Action had the happy experience of representing our members and supporters at the bill signing of SB 5347,  aka the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Vocational Educational Bill. The new law expands access to vocational education for parents on TANF.

All TANF recipients must meet a certain number of “work activity” requirements, such as applying for jobs, skills training, and some education or certificate programs. But after twelve months, parents enrolled in eligible vocational education and certification programs were faced with the need to fulfill additional work activities — often making it much harder to finish the programs that would set their families up for greater stability. This bill extends the time parents on TANF can count vocational education as a “work activity” from 12 months to 24 months. We know that kids do better when parents do better. This new law literally allows parents a better chance at obtaining degrees that can set them and their families up for long-term stability.

In addition to the steadfast work of Poverty Action, partner organizations, and coalitions, passing this bill has taken years of committed community advocacy.  If it weren’t for parents on TANF who helped put a human face on this story by meeting with lawmakers and sharing their story in pieces like “Getting to Know Who’s on TANF” we wouldn’t have been able to create this new law.

The 24 month Vocational Education bill was not the only one signed that day. The Attorney General’s Office of Washington led the charge to pass a student loan disclosure bill. This bill will require lenders to be transparent about the terms of the loan and help students understand what they will owe, so they can make an informed decisions about how to fund their education. Poverty Action helped support this bill and were delighted to be there at the signing.