Economic Justice Working Group Clerk, Steven Aldrich.
Restoration of TANF Six percent of our state’s residents live in “deep poverty”
That’s 406,000 people. More than one in ten Washingtonians live below the poverty line (12.2% in 2015). One child out of every six in our state lives in poverty.
Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) grants were cut during the last recession (in 2008). In 1996 TANF grants provided a family of three with $562/month. Today an eligible family of three receives $50 less: $512/month in dollars not adjusted for inflation.
An additional $15 million/year is needed to restore grants to their 1996 nominal levels. We need to restore the remaining cuts so that TANF grants, at a minimum, provide the nominal value provided in 1996: a $50/month increase for a family of three. 2 years of Community College/Vocational education Like everyone else, poor people with a certificate or degree are more likely to find and keep jobs.
Current law limits educational support for TANF recipients to one year, even though many of the community college and vocational education programs they attend require two-years participation to earn a certificate or degree. We need to provide two years’ funding to support TANF recipients’ efforts to gain full employment. HENs (Housing and Essential Needs)/ABD (Aged, Blind, or Disabled) Each session someone attempts to reduce the limited assistance HENs and ABD programs provide about 30,000 of our neighbors.
While increased funding is needed, these days avoiding a cut feels like success. 75 percent of HENs/ABD recipients also have behavioral health problems, they will benefit from any increased behavioral health care funding. Maintaining the Medicaid Waiver that provides health insurance to anyone with an income of less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level—which is part of Obamacare—is vital to people served by the HENs and ABD programs.
Reducing the Taxes paid by the Poor Washington has the most regressive tax structure in the nation. Despite the recovery of our state economy, tax income is insufficient to fully fund the social safety net those who cannot work need to prepare for work or survive without becoming homeless. Additional revenue is also needed to make sure all our children receive the education they need to remain fully employed in tomorrow’s job market.
Individuals pay less in state taxes today than they did 10 years ago. If wealthy Washingtonians paid the same tax rate that the poorest people in our state currently, we would have a budgetary surplus. It isn’t fair that people with higher incomes pay taxes at a lower rate. We need to develop an equitable tax structure that fully funds our state’s safety net programs and pays for everyone’s education.
Longer Term Goals (How we measure the impact of our activity):
- Protect the safety net for economically or physically challenged state residents, permitting them to be healthier contributors to their communities and better achieve their full potential.
- Prevent levels of disparity in wealth and opportunity that lead to social dysfunction and increased criminal activity.
- Create and maintain programs, systems, and institutions required to keep people in good physical and behavioral health.