The COVID-19 pandemic has set off the largest economic justice crisis since the Great Depression, in Washington state as elsewhere. The outpouring of public generosity towards our fellow Washingtonians has been remarkable, with donations to school lunch programs, foodbanks, and homeless shelters and concern for the health and safety of transit and farm workers. Quaker Voice is pleased to see the state of Washington extending benefits and providing services to the most vulnerable groups in our state. State agencies are working hard to distribute the new federal benefits to the record-breaking number of families in need.
The state budget crisis created by the economic slowdown, however, has strained the ability of social service agencies to distribute emergency help. School closures are deepening existing inequalities in the educational process, neglecting tens of thousands of the neediest students. Community clinics are strained. The groups most at risk are those for whom Quaker Voice speaks up: the homeless, prisoners, farm workers, low income households, etc. Undocumented workers have been left out of the federal relief packages. The hardship is likely to produce even sharper pain when the public health emergency is lifted and special assistance ends.
Quaker Voice is identifying ways the governor and state legislature need to act to keep the newly reinforced safety net in place, taking steps forward in longer-term state programs using the momentum of the crisis.