Session is officially over: The dust has settled!

After 176 days and edging into a 3rd special session, Washington state’s 2015 legislative session ended in the second week of July. The final budget includes $185 million in new revenue from closing several tax loopholes and increasing some fees. It takes key steps to strengthen our state safety net; invest in early learning, K-12 and college education; provide emergency mental health services; and more.

Legislative Building, Olympia, WA

Legislative Building, Olympia, WA

Working closely with our communities, we are happy to report that our advocacy led to important wins for equity in Washington state. Here is how our main campaigns fared:

Basic Needs
After years of cuts to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), we saw a 9% increase in the cash grant! This increase also benefits immigrant families who rely on State Family Assistance to meet their basic needs. State Food Assistance was funded fully at 100% (instead of 75%) of the federal SNAP benefit, assisting immigrant families living on low incomes in buying enough food for their families. And Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) now has a 12-month eligibility assessment, which means that a parent won’t lose help with childcare if their income increases slightly due to extra hours or overtime from one month to another.

Unfortunately state funding for Washington Telephone Assistance Program (WTAP), including Community Voice Mail (CVM), was eliminated. CVM provides a stable, secure way for people facing homelessness or who are in crisis to stay connected to critical resources – such as housing and employment opportunities – and accomplish their goals.

Roadblocks to Re-Entry (for previously incarcerated people)
All three of our main campaign priorities – Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs), Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP), and Ban the Box – gained positive momentum this year though none were passed into law. The LFO bill was voted out of the House almost unanimously and was moving through the Senate before an amended version died on the floor. We are excited to build on this momentum next session!

Consumer Protections
Due to a groundswell of opposition from all across the state, including a lot of media attention, we prevented “small installment loans” (the new payday loan) from being passed. We also prevented passage of several other laws that would weaken our debt protections. We’ll most likely have to keep fighting this fight in the years to come, but it’s worth it. The strong consumer protections you passed in 2009 have saved Washington consumers nearly half a billion dollars in fines and fees.

Your emails, phone calls, stories, and letters supporting revenue and investments in equity in our state made a real difference! Thank you for all the ways you made your voice heard this legislative session to generate revenue and invest in all families in our state. Visit the Statewide Poverty Action Network website for more information.

We have a lot to be proud of: Seattle Pride 2015

 This post was contributed by Lara Sim, Senior Public Policy Campaign Manager, Statewide Poverty Action Network and Debbie Carlsen, Executive Director, LGBTQ Allyship.

Anchored in the iconic Seattle Pride Parade along 4th Avenue, this year’s Seattle Pride showcased the dynamic community in which we live. Following our victories for marriage equality in Washington state, dismantling the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and advances in transgender rights in Washington, the events this year had a certain electric element.

Dominating the celebration was the jubilant feeling that accompanied Friday morning’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on Marriage Equality: It is now legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry the people they love. The decision is a historic victory for LGBTQ rights activists who have fought for years in the lower courts. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia already recognize marriage equality. The remaining 13 states had banned these unions, even as public support has reached record levels nationwide. What a victory for equity and human dignity!

PrideHands

Pride parades began as a result of years of repression by the government. This year’s 41st Seattle Pride celebrated the progress we have made in equality and social justice and put a spotlight on the work still ahead of us. That work includes addressing barriers, such as laws on the books that still legalize discrimination.

In his welcome, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray shared some harrowing numbers and reminded us that “in 76 countries, it is still illegal to be LGBTQ and in 10 countries, the punishment is life in prison or death. We know these laws are on the wrong side of history.” During Pride and beyond, we saw our community and our allies come together to make the call for equality and non-discrimination. At Pride, this was the call to action, and we intend to take up the mantle.

The parade itself was humid, rowdy and loud. And it was filled with glitter and love. Over 200 groups pranced, waved and blew kisses from Union StPrideBeadsreet to Denny Way. We found the 2½ hours of revelry grounded in respect, courage and commitment. Organizers reminded us that Seattle’s Pride Parade is one of the top five parades in the country and that the head count was upwards of a half a million people! As the parade wound down, the crowd made its way to the Seattle Center. To see so many rolling around in the International Fountain after the drizzle of rain earlier in the morning was the perfect blend of silly, celebratory and quintessential Seattle.

Alongside all the merriment, State Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu reminded us the fight isn’t over. From her published bio, Justice Yu is the state’s first out lesbian Justice, the first Asian-American Justice, the first Latina Justice, and the 11th woman to ever serve on the Washington Supreme Court. She prompted us to get involved:

For so many of us, acceptance and subsequent success came from an adult or mentor who reached out during a critical time in our lives. You too can be that beacon of hope or voice of comfort for a young person struggling through one of their toughest periods of life. Together we can assist and empower our youth to embrace their identity as they strive for self-sufficiency.”

She is right, of course: The fight isn’t over. For 40 years, in the long arc of struggle for acceptance, we see history changing at breakneck speed. As more LGBTQ individuals pick up the mantle of advocacy, they will help create a world our community never dreamed possible.

Email Washington state lawmakers! Potential impacts of government shutdown

Protester calls for Fair Revenue in Washington StateAs of today, there is no budget agreement in Olympia. If lawmakers can’t reach an agreement within the next two weeks, Washington state could face a partial government shutdown. The cause of the shutdown would be simple: Some lawmakers are refusing to raise fair revenue in order to meet the needs of our families and communities.

Your legislators need to hear from you! Email your lawmakers one simple message: It is time to reach a budget deal by raising fair revenue. Invest in a strong, more equitable Washington state!

POTENTIAL IMPACTS OF A WASHINGTON STATE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN (from the Office of Financial Management):

Department of Social & Health Services
Thousands of individuals and families will experience severe service disruptions or will not be able to access them at all. For example:

  • 12,000 individuals with disabilities will lose vocational rehabilitation services.
  • 29,000 older adults will lose food services.
  • 30,000 low-income, working families will lose child care payment assistance during a high-demand time for care, especially for families working in seasonal agricultural jobs.
  • 30,000 incapacitated adults will not receive basic cash or referrals to housing and other essential services.
  • 200 adolescents in conflict with their families and youth who live on the street will lose access to safe housing.
  • Public assistance fraud detection and investigations will cease, potentially costing the state millions of dollars.
  • More than 10,000 legal immigrants will not receive state-funded food assistance.
  • No staff will be available to connect more than 21,000 WorkFirst clients with resources and activities to help them continue on their path to self-sufficiency.
  • The East and West Mobile Community Services Offices will be closed, leaving Washingtonians in remote rural areas with limited access to services.
  • Services and supervision will be suspended for 200 youth recently released from juvenile rehabilitation facilities. And 150 youth with sex offense histories will receive minimal services.
  • The state’s nine child support offices will be closed. Cash, check and money order payments, which compose roughly 30% of cases (more than 100,000 children), will not be accepted in person.
  • Only current automatic, electronic child support payments will be processed.
  • No new child support orders will be established or processed, affecting up to 3,400 families per month.
  • No proactive work will be done on existing child support cases – including enforcement of orders and any type of customer service.
  • Approximately half the 17,700 employees at DSHS would be temporarily laid off. Exceptions would include employees working in state psychiatric hospitals and residential care centers, and child and adult protective service workers.

Health Care Authority
About 2 million individuals would be affected, including about 1.7 million Apple Health (Medicaid) clients and 350,000 Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) program enrollees.

  • No payments would go to providers offering services to Apple Health clients and PEBB program enrollees. It is unclear how long these providers would be able to continue offering services without payment.
  • No customer service staff would be available to help either Apple Health clients or PEBB program enrollees.
  • Individuals would be able to apply for Apple Health through Healthplanfinder, but if their application requires any review before approval, that will not occur until HCA reopens.
  • If a shutdown lasts longer than a week to 10 days, HCA would have to examine which functions must come back online to avoid violation of Washington’s Medicaid State Plan with the federal government.
  • ProviderOne payments would stop, impacting medical providers as well as social service providers such as adult family homes, supported living, and home care agencies.

Department of Corrections

  • Of the approximately 8,100 employees working for DOC, 3,000 would be temporarily laid off. Roughly 5,100 employees would remain on the job to run the state prisons and perform other essential roles, as required by the Washington State Constitution and federal law.
  • Offenders under community supervision would no longer be put in jail for one to three days for minor violations such as failing a drug test. In a government shutdown, any offenders in jail for such minor violations would be released; as of June 16, this would amount to approximately 1,100 offenders.
  • Anyone now in jail waiting to go to prison would still go to prison. Anyone who enters jail on or after July 1, 2015, on his/her way to prison would remain in jail.
  • There are roughly 17,000 offenders under community supervision. That supervision would be suspended for the vast majority of offenders. The only exceptions are offenders Washington is responsible for supervising under the Interstate Compact.
  • There will be a limited response to requests for GPS tracking alerts for sex offenders, instead of the 24-hour coverage provided now.

Department of Health
The department would have to temporarily lay off nearly 95% of its 1,675 employees and suspend numerous services that protect public health. For example:

  • Public Health Laboratories’ services would be suspended:
    › Shellfish would not be tested for toxins.
    › Marine water quality testing in support of recreational and commercial fisheries would not be provided.
    › The radiation laboratory would be unable to respond to radiological emergencies.
    › Routine disease testing activities would cease for detection and mitigation of outbreaks.
    › Reference laboratory services provided to clinical labs and hospitals would not be available.
    › Newborn screening would operate with minimal staff to focus on the most critical conditions.
    › Central services that affect laboratory operations (safety, training, testing support and outbreak response) would be reduced.
  • Disease outbreak support (tracking, testing and managing disease prevention efforts such as for foodborne illness) would not be provided.
  • Assistance to HIV positive individuals (approximately 4,000) for accessing insurance and medications would be halted.
  • None of the environment-related health programs that DOH regulates would be actively monitored and acted on (only emergencies would be responded to):
    › All shellfish growing areas – commercial and recreational – would be closed.
  • Health service quality assurance services (medical facility inspections, medical professional credentialing and disciplinary investigations) would be suspended.
    › No new health care credentials would be issued.
    › Renewals of health care credentials would be delayed.
    › No disciplinary actions would be processed.
    › Complaints about regulated providers and regulated facilities would not be reviewed and processed.
    › Certificate of Need applications would be delayed.
  • Health services that support individuals, activities to prevent diseases, and promotional work to encourage healthy choices would not be provided. The following services would not be provided:
    › Childhood vaccines
    › Breast, Cervical and Colon Health Program
    › Family planning
    › Washington State Tobacco Quitline
    › Coordination services for children with special health care needs
    › Specialty therapy services via Neurodevelopmental Centers
    › Maxillofacial Review Board consultations, treatment and surgeries
    › Family Health Hotline (provides information on a variety of health topics)
    › Child profile health promotion mailings
    › Case management services for perinatal hepatitis B prevention
    › Immunization clinical resources
    › Human papillomavirus public awareness campaign
    › SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) education
    › Community health worker training

State Parks
Summer is the busy season for Washington State Parks, so a shutdown would have significant impacts on the agency and its customers. A majority of park visits occur during the summer months, and State Parks earns about half of its revenue between July 1 and Sept. 30.

  • Thousands of people who have already made reservations for the first week of July would need to be notified that their reservations might be cancelled. This includes:
    › 10,112 separate camping reservations
    › 421 bookings for cabins, yurts and vacation houses and 102 group accommodation reservations (weddings, family reunions, etc.)

State Parks estimates these reservations are equal to about 48,000 visitor nights and affect about 128,000 people. State Parks would have to absorb the cost of any refunded reservation fees and would lose the overnight revenue.

An estimated 1.3 million visitors coming for the day during the first week of July to any of the 124 state parks would be turned away.

  • Special events in many parks would need to be cancelled, affecting visitors, sponsors and vendors alike. The campground at Fort Worden and other area parks would be closed, which would have a significant impact on Centrum Foundation’s annual Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, June 27 through July 5. The festival attracts a core of 500 participants. Many festival-goers camp at Fort Worden, Fort Flagler and Fort Townsend, and would be without accommodations for the greater part of the festival. The festival would continue because of a lease agreement with the Port Townsend Public Development Authority to manage the conference portion of the park, but there would be no ranger or maintenance support.
  • A total of $1.9 million in lost State Parks revenue is anticipated. This includes Discover Pass, camping, cabin, group facilities, special event, camp store and other related fees. Surrounding community businesses that benefit from state parks would also be effected.
  • It is reasonable to anticipate vandalism and misuse of park facilities because park staff are not in place to provide protection. Irreplaceable natural, cultural and historical resources are at risk, as well as valuable developed park areas where there is public investment.

Department of Fish & Wildlife

  • Most, if not all, fisheries would have to be closed, because WDFW would not have staff to monitor, sample and account for the catch or enforce regulations.
  • The department would not be able to issue fishing or hunting licenses, Discover Passes or other documents through our electronic licensing system.
  • Other impacts include the closure of our access sites and suspension of our ability to issue hydraulic project approvals, which would impact new construction projects where an HPA permit is necessary to begin work.
  • WDFW is developing contingency plans for the care and feeding of fish in the state’s hatcheries, pheasants at the state’s game farm and endangered captive pygmy rabbits in captivity.

Department of Ecology
All but about a dozen of Ecology’s 1,642 regular employees would be temporarily laid off. In addition, the department has 422 Washington Conservation Corps and Ecology Youth Corps members who would not receive official layoff notices, but would be told by their crew supervisors not to show up to work until further notice.

A shutdown would prevent the department from continuing its work to protect Washington’s land, air and water. Examples of work that will not be done:

  • Respond to any environmental complaints, except on an emergency basis.
  • Conduct inspections of any type, including at the Hanford nuclear cleanup site.
  • Process or issue new permits or other authorizations for industrial or agricultural wastewater discharges, air emissions or water rights. This includes drought-related and agricultural burning permits if applications haven’t been processed by June 30.
  • Collect environmental samples, including those from streams, rivers, lakes and Puget Sound.
  • Respond to oil or hazardous spills, except in the most critical circumstances.
  • Identify or respond to dam safety problems, except in the most critical circumstances.
  • Work on environmental impact statements for any of the large projects for which we are State Environmental Policy Act lead or co-lead.
  • Employ young adults and veterans to do habitat restoration, trail maintenance and other projects through our AmeriCorps Washington Conservation Corps program.
  • Test environmental or product samples at our laboratory.

There would be additional impacts to local communities since nearly three-fourths of Ecology’s budget (operating and capital) is pass-through funding for environmental projects to local governments. The department’s 1,800 grant and loan recipients and contractors would not able to use any state funds. This includes funds for construction of wastewater treatment plant upgrades, habitat restoration projects and cleaning up toxic sites in communities.

Department of Agriculture
With about 20% of its budget supported by the state General Fund, the Department of Agriculture would have to suspend numerous programs, including:

  • All routine testing and inspections by the Animal Health Division.
  • All routine inspection of the Dairy Nutrient Management Program.

In addition, several agency programs would cease offering services altogether, including:

  • International Marketing – Uses overseas contractors to help food and agricultural companies enter the export market.
  • Food Assistance Program – Distributes food and money to food banks and assistance programs statewide.
  • Natural Resource Assessment Section – Monitors the impact of agricultural activities to the state’s natural resources.
  • Pesticide Waste Disposal – Collects and ensures the proper disposal of prohibited or unusable pesticides from farms.
  • Plant Protection Division – Works to prevent high risk insects, plant diseases, weeds and other pests from becoming established in Washington.

Department of Commerce

  • 122 community capital construction projects underway will be disrupted, putting millions of dollars at risk due to costly delays and creating the potential for projects to stand uncompleted. Construction jobs will be cut back or lost.
  • Services to approximately 2,158 WorkFirst participants delivered through state-contracted agencies would no longer be provided, creating additional barriers for individuals already facing challenges in re-entering the workforce.
  • Community Action Agencies would not be able to finalize and/or pay benefits on applications received in June for utility assistance to about 4,000 low-income individuals, leading to greater health and safety risks for vulnerable people such as the elderly, disabled and families with young children.
  • Approximately 120 homeowners per month who are facing foreclosure are referred to Commerce by housing counselors and attorneys for foreclosure mediation services. These homeowners will no longer receive counseling services and legal aid under the Foreclosure Fairness Act, greatly increasing their risk of losing their homes.
  • Payments will stop to landlords for clients receiving rent assistance for approximately 7,100 vulnerable adults and children, putting them at risk of eviction and subsequent homelessness. In addition to direct client impacts, our carefully cultivated relationships with private market landlords will suffer from a disruption in rent payments.
  • Approximately 50 affordable housing projects now under development and construction will be disrupted, putting millions of dollars at risk due to costly delays and potential for projects to stand uncompleted. Construction jobs will be cut back or lost.
  • Commerce’s ability to administer the low-income weatherization program would be significantly impaired. Lost would be $6 million in dollar-for-dollar matching funds from private utility companies, with an additional $18 million jeopardized over the biennium. Work would cease on safety and energy improvements to approximately 1,300 units (homes) of affordable housing stock.
  • Thousands of crime victims would not receive medical and legal advocacy, therapy or crisis intervention, among other services provided through our contracted agencies.
  • Two statewide hotlines for crime victims operated by Commerce would not be staffed. Victims seeking support and referrals would not be served.
  • With no staff to serve about 65 small and medium-sized businesses we assist monthly in exporting, the state could lose at least $9 million a month of export sales, with the residual effect of ramp-up time after shutdown likely.
  • Client requests for export documentation to clear customs would not be processed, at a loss of $2 million of export sales a month. These requests intensify in the summer in anticipation of the holiday season.
  • Significant impacts across several program areas would disrupt 375 local construction projects. This could jeopardize other funding as well as increase costs incurred to render construction sites safe and re-mobilize essential construction equipment once funding is approved. Affected programs are:
    › Community Economic Revitalization Board has 23 active projects.
    › Community Development Block Grant has 85 active projects.
    › Local Government Division currently manages 27 direct appropriation projects.
    › Drinking Water State Revolving Fund has 133 active projects.
    › Public Works Board has 106 active contracts.

Department of Licensing
Individuals submitting professional license applications or other requests to these programs will face delays until program staff return to work. It also will halt the work of our BPD inspectors and investigators. Consumers attempting to file a complaint against a licensed professional or firm also will have to wait until staff return to work. Professional licensing delays could create general hardships for individuals and businesses that need these credentials to conduct business.

Licensing programs impacted by suspension of service:

  • Real Estate Appraisers
  • Home Inspectors
  • Real Estate Agents and Firms
  • Time Shares and Camp Resorts
  • Engineers – Land surveyors – Onsite Waste Water
  • Architects
  • Scrap Metal Recyclers
  • Notaries
  • Uniform Commercial Code
  • Whitewater Rafters
  • Telephone Solicitors
  • Employment Agencies
  • Cosmetology
  • Tattoo-body art – body piercing
  • Combative Sports
  • Auctioneers
  • Sellers of Travel
  • Court Reporters
  • Security guards
  • Private Investigators
  • Bail Bonds
  • Bail Bonds Recovery
  • Collection agencies

Share your story: ‘It’s the most powerful thing you can do’

Poverty Action Member, Nacol, and her kids at 2014 MLK Lobby Day

Statewide Poverty Action Network member, Nacol, & her kids at 2014 MLK Lobby Day

Statewide Poverty Action Network member Nacol shares her powerful story. You, too, can make your voice heard through the Sharing Personal Experience As Knowledge (SPEAK) campaign.

“Five years ago, I fled a domestic violence situation with my two-year-old twin daughters – and one suitcase. I spent two years living in shelters while I searched for resources. One of my biggest barriers to stability continues to be the lack of resources for one of my daughters, who lives with a disability. Because of this disability, I am always on call to pick up my daughter from school and cannot afford childcare. It is hard to find a job that is flexible enough to fit the needs of my children.

I want to work and want the best for my daughters.

I receive $478 per month through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for myself and my family. While this money helps a great deal, it is not enough.

I am forced to choose between school supplies and clothes for my children, and paying our rent and utility bills.

TANF is really important though. Because I receive TANF, I was able to more easily obtain transitional housing, and TANF’s emergency assistance program helped me when I needed it.

I would like to see improvements to TANF, such as increasing the asset limits for TANF recipients. The few times I had any money to save, I didn’t do it because I was worried that I would lose my TANF benefits. I shouldn’t have to choose between saving for my family’s future and accessing resources to meet our basic needs now.

As a person who has life experience, I think sharing my story is so important. Step up and let someone know how you feel. Go down and talk to your representatives. I think it’s the most powerful thing you can do.”

Nacol, Member
Statewide Poverty Action Network

By stepping up and telling her story, Nacol, along with other members of the Statewide Poverty Action Network, were powerful enough to prevent $87.8 million in cuts to TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) programs. To learn more or share your story, visit povertyaction.org.

Poverty Action’s 2014 election positions

VOTE FOR A CHANGE imageOn Tuesday, November 4, you have the opportunity to cast your vote and weigh in on issues important to you and your community. The Statewide Poverty Action Network has taken a position on some of this year’s main ballot initiatives to help you consider their impacts. To avoid confusion on this year’s LOOOOOOONG ballot, we’ve listed our positions in the order in which they appear on the ballot.

Initiatives 591 & 594: Background checks for gun sales
Everyone in Washington state should be able to live in safe communities. Background checks provide an important tool in curbing gun violence. We need stronger, not weaker, background checks on gun sales.

Vote NO on Initiative 591
Vote NO buttonI-591 would weaken background checks and make gun sales less safe. Right now, federal background check laws are weaker than our laws here in Washington state. This initiative would roll back our state’s existing – and already inadequate – background check laws to conform to the weaker federal standards. For example, I-591 would repeal state law that prevents individuals with restraining orders against them from possessing a gun. Also, instead of closing unsafe gun show and internet loopholes, this initiative expands them. This is a dangerous step in the wrong direction. Vote NO on I-591.

Vote YES on Initiative 594
Vote YES buttonI-594 would strengthen background checks and make gun sales safer. Currently in Washington state, not all gun sales require a background check. Licensed gun dealers use a background check, while gun shows and the internet take advantage of a loophole that allows them to avoid this safety measure. I-594 would eliminate this loophole and require every gun buyer in Washington state to pass the same background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter whom they buy it from. Vote YES on I-594.

Seattle’s Proposition 1: Funding for transportation
If you live in Seattle, you have the opportunity to vote for Proposition 1. Affordable public transportation is the lifeblood of a growing city and region. Our friends, neighbors, and family members rely on the bus to get to work, school, and medical appointments. There are a number of Seattle Propositions and Measures with “1” in their titles – you’ll know this one because it is the very last measure on the Seattle ballot.

Vote YES on City of Seattle Proposition 1
Vote YES buttonCommunities of color, students, seniors, and working families will be affected by bus cuts if Seattle Proposition 1 doesn’t pass. This measure funds access to transit for riders living on low incomes and offers a low-income tax rebate on car tabs for working families. Vote YES on Proposition 1 in Seattle.

Still have questions about this year’s election?
Visit Poverty Action’s online Voter Guide to learn where the candidates stand on the issues you care most about.

Poverty Action Voter Guide now online

VotePoverty Action focuses on changing laws in Olympia, correcting injustices, and ensuring that every single person in our state can have their basic needs met and access to equal opportunity.

One of the best ways to make progress on our issues is by exercising the power to vote and electing political representatives who listen to the voices of people living on low incomes. This is why it is crucial that we understand each candidate’s stance on the issues that disproportionately impact low-income families and people of color, as well as our community at large.

Poverty Action asked candidates eight questions on topics ranging from health care to predatory lending, the safety net to institutional racism. Each election, we publish the candidate responses so that you can understand candidates’ positions on these vital issues.

The Poverty Action Voter Guide is now available online.

We hope you will use the guide to help you make informed decisions. You can expect your general election ballot in the mail this week. Ballots are due on Tuesday, November 4.

This election is critical to the well-being of our communities. These candidates will have substantial impacts on our everyday lives. Don’t let this election pass you by!

Mail in your ballot or put it in a local drop box by 8pm on Tuesday, November 4, 2014Lists of drop boxes can be found here:

For more information on Poverty Action and how to become a member, visit our website!

Statewide Poverty Action Network’s 2014 Voter Guide

You’ve been seeing commercials, hearing ads on the radio, and receiving mail from candidates and initiative campaigns. It is clearly time to vote in our state’s primary election!

If you’ve received your ballot in the mail recently, you may see some old familiars and some new unknowns on there. It can be overwhelming trying to find resources on the right information about where these candidates stand on the issues facing your community. With so many pressing matters facing our communities, your participation in this election is critical.

Every election season, Statewide Poverty Action Network Poverty Action Voter Guide(SPAN) takes to the streets to register and mobilize voters, AND we talk to the people running for elected office across the state. We sent all running candidates in Washington state a questionnaire on topics ranging from health care to predatory lending to institutional racism, and then published their responses verbatim in this VOTER GUIDE. Over the next few weeks, we’ll add even more information about folks running for U.S. Congress and our positions on the statewide initiatives, too!

Our guide provides the tools you need to help ensure all families have the rights, recognition, and resources needed to thrive. We need great leaders in Olympia to help us forward our legislative agenda to change laws and correct injustices. Now is the time to have a say about the issues facing your community and making sure everyone can meet their basic needs.

These candidates will have substantial impacts on our everyday lives. Don’t let this election pass you by. Read our online voter guide to make informed decisions before mailing your ballot or putting it in a local drop box by 8pm on Tuesday, August 5!

SPAN and Solid Ground are nonpartisan, nonprofit (501c3) organizations that do not support any candidate or political party.

WA Exchange reports strong Obamacare enrollment; Medicaid enrollment stays open

1985_Health CareGreat news on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) front!

The big enrollment numbers are in and they are looking good:

  • 146,500 people signed up for private insurance on the WA exchange, including 8,000 on March 31, the last day to sign up.
  • 268,164 newly eligible people signed up for Medicaid (called Washington Apple Health in our state) – that’s TWICE the state’s goal!
  • All told, approximately 958,000 people in our state signed up for or renewed their health insurance through wahealthplanfinder.org over the past six months.
  • Numbers are coming soon that outline breakdown by age, as well as new vs. renew – stay tuned.

A few important reminders:

  • Medicaid has open enrollment all the time – it is not impacted by Monday’s deadline. Many in our community are Medicaid-eligible (up to 138% of federal poverty level). If folks are unsure whether or not they qualify, they can call our ACA Hotline at 206.694.6714).
  • People can sign up for private insurance at any time during the year IF they have had a major life event, such as a marriage, divorce, job loss, birth or adoption of a child, or move to/from another state.
  • Wahealthplanfinder.org is the online portal to sign up for both Medicaid and private insurance. People can still use the website to sign up for insurance in either of the above situations.
  • If people tried to buy private insurance on Monday, but got cut off by computer issues, or if they are dealing with a natural disaster, domestic violence, or a few other issues, they can request an extension by calling 1.855.923.4633 or emailing customersupport@wahbexchange.org.
  • Have additional questions about any of my reminders? Check out the FAQ from the WA Health Exchange Board.

This has been a tremendous effort – from all the way back in 2009/2010 when we marched together in the streets to pass the Affordable Health Act, through all the political wrangling, and into implementation and sign up. Congratulations to everyone who advocated for passage of the Act and is helping to get the word out in the community. Let’s keep it up and ensure that we continue investing in the health and well-being of our communities!

Marcy Bowers is Solid Ground’s Advocacy Deputy Director and the Director of the Statewide Poverty Action Network.

We’re hitting the road: Poverty Action Listening Sessions begin July 23

Summer is in full swing here in Washington State. That means it is Listening Session season at the Statewide Poverty Action Network! We will hit the road to meet our members and gather our network’s priorities for the upcoming year. We’ll also host advocacy trainings in a town near you!

Over the next few months, we will head to Tacoma, Seattle, Pasco/Tri-Cities, Spokane, Everett, Kent and more. We are also pairing each Listening Session with one of our Advocacy Trainings to make each stop on the Listening Session Tour double as an opportunity to tell your story directly to your legislators!

Protect WA State FamiliesPoverty Action Listening Sessions 2013:

  • SEATTLE: July 23-24
  • TACOMA: Aug. 9-10
  • KENT: Aug. 27-29
  • EVERETT: Sept. 10-12
  • TRI-CITIES/PASCO: Sept. 25-27
  • SPOKANE: October 8-10

Our first Listening Session is in Seattle on Tuesday, July 23 (from 2:30-4:30pm at the 2100 Building, 2100 24th Ave S, Seattle, WA). It will focus on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and State Family Assistance (SFA). We’re especially in need of members with the following experiences:

  1. Do you currently receive TANF or SFA?
  2. Have you received TANF/SFA in the past three years?
  3. Do you have ideas about how to improve TANF/SFA to make it a better program for families?
  4. Are you looking to share your experience using these programs with lawmakers?

If you answered yes to ANY of these questions, we want to hear from you! Please call 1.866.789.7726 to learn more or to RSVP. You will receive $20 for travel expenses; please RSVP for childcare.

Come and share your story and help shape our legislative agenda, then join us on day two for a roundtable discussion with lawmakers on the issues you care about! Spots are limited for these sessions, so don’t delay – reserve your space today!

We need to hear from you!
There is no better time than now to get your story heard. Check back with the Poverty Action website soon for more information about upcoming Listening Sessions near you. And if you are interested in attending any of the dates above, give us a call TODAY at 1.866.789.7726 or email gwen@povertyaction.org to reserve your place at a Listening Session, Advocacy Training or both! We hope to see you on our Listening Session Tour!

Zombie Debt: Help stop the haunting!

Marcy Bowers is Director of the Statewide Poverty Action Network.

After building on Poverty Action’s successes passing landmark consumer protection bills, we are mobilizing our network to support HB 1069, which will help regulate an alarming new predatory industry called “Zombie Debt.”

Here’s a quick look at what we’re fighting against:
The Zombie Debt industry is largely unregulated and profits off deceptive practices that intimidate people into paying on old debt or “debt” that they might not even owe. Like a zombie coming back from the dead, old debt comes back to haunt consumers. We urgently need your help to pass this bill which regulates Zombie Debt and the predatory practices of debt buyers.

Check out this video to see how you can help stop Zombie Debt:

TAKE ACTION!

More on the ghoulishness of Zombie Debt:
Zombie Debt occurs when companies sell their old debts for pennies on the dollar to third-party debt buyers. Debt buyers then try to collect on old debts or debts that have already been paid (and sometimes never even owed in the first place). Many times, the information is out of date, has already been paid in full, or is assigned to the wrong person entirely.

Everyone is at risk to be targeted by debt buyers’ search for profit by using the courts and financial system against the public. Debt buying is one of the nation’s fastest growing industries. It is largely financed by Wall Street and is exploiting the lack of industry regulation to extract billions of dollars from people all over the US.

Debt buyers are flooding our court systems:
Debt buyers are increasingly taking advantage of state courts by filing lawsuits to collect on the debt they purchase. Unfortunately, these predatory debt buyers are exploiting our courts by using default judgments against Washingtonians when they might not even owe the debt. Debt buyers don’t even know if they have the right person, the right amount, or any real evidence, but they are able to obtain judgments due to antiquated state laws that don’t protect people from deceptive financial industries.

Low- and moderate-income consumers are disproportionately affected:
One study found that 95% of people with default judgments entered against them lived in low- and moderate-income communities. At a time when struggling families need every penny to survive, Zombie Debt is threatening Washingtonians’ well-being and economic security.

TAKE ACTION: WE NEED YOU!

  • Send your legislators this message: “Washington needs to regulate debt buyers and protect consumers from unfair debt practices. SUPPORT HB 1069.”
  • Have experience with debt buyers attempting to collect on debt you don’t owe or never incurred? Have you paid high fees to a debt settlement company only to end up in a worse situation than when you started? Give us a call to share your story! Call 1.866.789.7726 or email danielle@povertyaction.org.

Poverty Action at the Capitol

Poverty Action members march & rally in Olympia in 2012

Poverty Action members march & rally in Olympia in 2012

Join the Statewide Poverty Action Network in Olympia on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, January 21. Speak out about the importance of basic needs services, fair housing, racial equality, healthcare and other issues impacting the lives of people across Washington State.

Poverty Action’s annual lobby day brings together hundreds of people from across Washington State. It supports issues brought forward by people from across our state through face-to-face meetings with lawmakers, direct actions, and trainings to take our movement back to our hometowns.

This is a great opportunity for both seasoned activists and people who have never expressed their opinions to our lawmakers. Students are especially encouraged to join us and bring the perspective and power of the next generation to the state political process!

WHAT: 
Poverty Action Day at the Capitol – A day of community building, advocacy trainings and exercising political power!

The Washington State Capitol, where YOU have the power!

The Washington State Capitol, where YOU have the power!

WHEN:
Monday, 1/21/13,
9:30am – 3:30pm (bus leaves Seattle 7:30am, returns about 5pm)

WHERE: 
Temple Beth Hatfiloh
201 8th Avenue SE
Olympia, WA 98501

HOW: 
Register online or call 206.694.6794
(toll-free at 1.866.789.7726).

Poverty Action has planned a morning of issue and advocacy briefings in preparation for the 1pm rally at the Capitol and group meetings with lawmakers.

This session, Poverty Action will focus on:

  • Saving safety net programs by protecting them from budget cuts.
  • Fortifying recent changes in payday lending laws that protect consumers, but are under fire from the industry.
  • Tightening up consumer protections against debt collectors and Zombie Debt.

There is free transportation from Seattle to Poverty Action Day at the Capitol (the bus leaves Solid Ground, 1501 N 45th Street in Wallingford, at 7:30am). Breakfast and lunch are provided. Childcare and interpretation services are available upon request.

You can register online or call 206.694.6794 (toll-free at 1.866.789.7726). And for more information, visit the Poverty Action website.

Advocacy works! 2012 Legislative wrap up

Poverty Action members lobby in Olympia for foreclosure fairness

Poverty Action members lobby in Olympia for foreclosure fairness

This legislative session, Statewide Poverty Action Network members worked hard to achieve substantial wins amidst one of the most difficult political climates in recent memory. From holding the line on funding Washington State’s safety net to passing significant consumer protections, we have a full slate of accomplishments we are proud to share. This work is possible because our members took a stand against further attacks on low-income families.

This session, Poverty Action successfully passed the following consumer protection bills:

HB 1552 – Garnishment
This bill allows consumers to keep more money to live on after a wage garnishment. These new protections may allow an individual worker to keep approximately $120 more per month, providing much-needed financial relief. This new law also clarifies that pension funds will continue to be exempt from garnishment, ensuring that seniors and people living with disabilities will be able to use their pensions to meet their basic needs, even during a garnishment. HB 1552 provides much-needed updates to Washington’s garnishment laws, better reflecting the realities of struggling families.

HB 2614 – Foreclosure Prevention
Last year, Washington led the way in ensuring that families facing foreclosure would have the right to a mediation process with their lenders. The Foreclosure Fairness Act, which passed in 2011, brought homeowners, lenders and a third-party mediator together to discuss alternatives to foreclosure. HB 2614 builds on the strength of last year’s law by streamlining the mediation process and providing added protections for mediators, as well as for homeowners while they work toward saving their homes and most valuable assets.

SB 6155 – Debt Adjusters
This bill puts reasonable and fair regulations on for-profit debt adjusters (sometimes called debt settlement), helping to prevent deceptive practices that hurt families who are attempting to regain their financial stability. For-profit debt adjustment is a fringe financial service that has seen rapid growth and change over the last several years. Debt adjusters reach out to people living with debt and offer bold “miracle cures” to help eliminate their debt, but often leave families in financial ruin. Because this industry is growing fast and the impacts in our state are still widely unknown, SB 6155 includes reporting requirements to gain information on the impacts to Washington consumers.

We also stood strong and protected vital public programs:

SB 6411 – Take Back the (TANF) Box
This bill increases transparency and accountability in our state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program by allowing legislators to make decisions on how TANF is administered. Previously, the Governor’s office made all of the decisions about TANF (also called the TANF “box”), allowing the public few opportunities to provide input on the program or its funding. By moving control of the TANF box to the 149 members of the legislature, SB 6411 provides Poverty Action members 149 opportunities to influence how TANF is managed.

Defending Our Safety Net & Restoring Cuts
Last fall, we launched an aggressive campaign to maintain the integrity of our state’s safety net. Together, our advocacy, paired with real stories from our members, prevented new cuts to TANF, Disability Lifeline Medical, State Food Assistance, State Family Assistance, and the Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program.

And finally, we were able to restore a 2011 cut to Working Connections Child Care. By restoring eligibility to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) from 175% FPL, we were able to bring back 1,000 subsidized childcare slots for working parents. Furthermore, the TANF large family cap was restored to the 2011 level, returning full benefits to nearly 2,000 families, including many refugee families.

These wins are a direct result of Olympia hearing from our network and could not have happened without their hard work. Thank you to all Poverty Action members for helping thousands of families across Washington State.

In Solidarity,
Your Poverty Action Network Staff
Marcy, Tony, Danielle, Senait, Kate, Julia and E.J.

For more information about the Statewide Poverty Action Network, contact us at info@povertyaction.org. Or click here to join our network!

Poverty Action members march & rally on MLK Day 2 (Presidents' Day 2012, as the MLK Day events were snowed out)

Poverty Action members march & rally on MLK Day 2 (Presidents' Day 2012, as the MLK Day events were snowed out)

Have they no shame?

 “If you are a poor woman, let me just say, tonight is not your night.”
– Senator Brown

These words from Senator Brown came shortly before 1am on Saturday morning after Senate Republicans, with the assistance of three Democrats, took over the Senate floor using an arcane parliamentary procedure and passed a shameful all-cuts budget.

The budget passed early Saturday morning is, indeed, incredibly harmful to low-income women across the state. The Senate’s budget makes $202 million in cuts to our state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. This includes an additional 2% grant cut, lowering the lifetime limit to 48 months, and a loss of 4,000 child care slots.

Knowing that the public supports a safety net for our state’s most vulnerable, these lawmakers kept their budget proposal quiet, held no hearings on it, and forced a vote before most lawmakers even had a chance to read the proposal. Now that we can actually read this budget, here are the details on the over $350 million in cuts to the state’s safety net:

•    It cuts funding for our state’s struggling families, those who are on TANF, by $202 million.
•    It eliminates the Disability Lifeline Medical program for 15,000 low-income disabled adults.
•    It eliminates the State Food Assistance Program, which provides food to 12,000 immigrant families each month.
•    It cuts more than $40 million from the Housing and Essential Needs program.

This is unacceptable. This is an attack on our state’s commitment to care for all Washingtonians, regardless of income. As if that’s not enough, the budget passed by the Senate on Saturday morning directly contradicts the public testimony and presence of thousands of citizens who came to Olympia or contacted legislators urging them to protect the safety net.

We still have a chance to make a difference. This budget, while shameful, still needs to go to the House for concurrence. Your lawmakers in both the House and the Senate need to hear from you today.

Lawmakers must see these messages everywhere they look: in their inboxes, in their voicemails, and in their local papers. Please take these three actions now!

1.    Send them an email and urge them to stand strong for our state’s safety net.
2.    Call them at 1.800.562.6000 and tell them that you support a budget for all Washingtonians.
3.    Use our template to send a letter to the editor of your paper in support of low-income women and children, in support of people with disabilities, and in support of our immigrant and refugee communities.

Marcy Bowers is Director of Solid Ground’s Statewide Poverty Action Network, which builds grassroots power to end causes of poverty and create opportunities for everyone to prosper.

Huge Success at 2011 Hempfest Voter Registration Drive!

Volunteer Juan Vega & the Washington Bus' Vote Bot registering voters

This past weekend, Solid Ground’s Statewide Poverty Action Network – in partnership with Seattle Hempfest – registered over 1,100 new voters! We made a significant impact in changing what voting power looks like in Washington State as part of our outreach and Vote for a Change Campaign, which focuses on voter registration, education and vote participation in low-income communities and communities of color.

An essential part of our outreach is to educate communities about the 2009 Voter Restoration Act, which Poverty Action was instrumental in passing. The Voter Restoration Act restores the right to vote for 400,000 previously incarcerated persons, who are also disproportionately people of color.

Before this law passed, previously incarcerated people were required to pay all legal financial obligations to restore their voting rights. This barrier particularly impacted people living on low incomes. Now, you can vote as soon as you are no longer under the Department of Correction’s supervision.

Of our 1,100 newly registered voters, at least 50% were previously incarcerated persons. This was a great accomplishment, and we will continue to do this imperative outreach so that people of color and people living on low incomes will no longer be marginalized from the political process.

A volunteer shared, “People who had been denied the right to vote, some for over 10 years, were so empowered and excited when they registered, I wanted to cry.”

Special thanks to Juan Vega, a Poverty Action Board member, whose life passion is to address race and class inequalities through empowering previously incarcerated persons. Juan was instrumental in organizing a beautiful weekend of sun, food, fun and anti-poverty movement building!

We had over 60 volunteers with us throughout the weekend, registering and engaging with people about how we can tackle the root causes of poverty with our voting power! Among our volunteers were Cheryl Cobbs Murphy, Executive Director of Solid Ground, members of Equal Rights Washington and Washington Bus, Poverty Action Board members and dedicated volunteers. Thanks to all of our amazing members and volunteers, we were able to increase the voting power of low-income communities and communities of color!

Foreclosure Fairness Act: Foreclosure mediation is now the law

The Foreclosure Fairness Act (HB 1362) was signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire on April 14, 2011, creating a foreclosure mediation program in Washington State. Mediation will give struggling homeowners the opportunity to meet with their lender to discuss options before losing their home and most valuable asset. This law will truly make a difference for thousands of homeowners in our state. Foreclosure mediation programs have been shown to be extremely effective in allowing families to save their homes. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Normandy Park) and had overwhelming support in the legislature.

Governor Christine Gregoire signs the Foreclosure Fairness Act

Governor Christine Gregoire signs the Foreclosure Fairness Act

Throughout the housing crisis, homeowners and housing counselors have repeatedly reported that banks and loan servicers do not answer the phone, lose homeowners’ information about loan modifications, and have different staff people from different offices talking to a homeowner. This new law will eliminate the problem of struggling homeowners being unable to get in touch with their lenders as they fight to stay in their homes.

“Approximately 45,000 families will receive notices of foreclosure this year, but we are providing new hope for many of them with a fair process and resources to help them explore every option available and keep their homes whenever possible,” said Rep. Tina Orwall.

Are you facing foreclosure? Unable to get your lender to respond? Want to know your options? Read on…

Washington State has a new law to prevent foreclosures.
As of July 22, 2011 you can now ask for a face-to-face meeting with your lender by requesting foreclosure mediation. To request a meeting with your lender, contact a housing counselor or attorney by calling 1.877.894.HOME (4663).

What is foreclosure mediation?
Foreclosure mediation is a process where a neutral, third-party mediator assists the homeowner and the lender to reach a fair, negotiated agreement.

Why request mediation?
If you have not been able to get in touch with your lender, you can now request a face-to-face meeting to discuss alternatives to foreclosure. During mediation, the lender is required to negotiate with you in good faith.

Who is eligible?
• Homeowners who are in default on their mortgage and have not yet received
   the Notice of Trustee’s Sale are eligible
• Homeowners who live in owner-occupied properties

How can I request mediation?
Foreclosure mediation must be requested by a housing counselor or an attorney on behalf of a homeowner. To find a housing counselor, call 1.877.894.HOME (4663).

How much does it cost?
The homeowner and the lender each pay a $200 fee for the mediation. The fee must be paid prior to the mediation.

Share your Story!
The foreclosure mediation law was passed because struggling homeowners shared their stories with lawmakers. Poverty Action is collecting stories from community members like YOU! Are you facing foreclosure? Having trouble with payday lenders? In danger of losing benefits like TANF or Disability Lifeline? Share your story and help lawmakers understand the issues Washingtonians are facing. For more information contact Poverty Action at 1.866.789.7726 or visit the Statewide Poverty Action Network website.

More information

Keeping Perspective after a Tough Election

(Editor’s Note: Marcy Bowers is the Membership and Communications Coordinator for the Statewide Poverty Action Network, a program of Solid Ground that works to build grassroots power to end the root causes of poverty and create opportunities for everyone to prosper.)

Volunteer canvassers in Tacoma

I confess. I’m an eternal optimist. I believe in crazy notions like “things will always get better,” and “there is always something gained, even when things go wrong.” I think this is what drove me to choose a career in organizing, what has kept me in this field for the past eight years, and what allows me to keep going in the face of devastating election losses.

This year in Washington, voters faced a record seven statewide ballot measures. Of those seven measures, three (I-1098, I-1053, and I-1107) will directly impact our state’s ability to balance the budget without making drastic cuts to the programs and services that people depend on to survive.

Reflecting a national wave of anti-tax, anti-government rhetoric, those three measures decidedly “went wrong:”

• I-1098 would have created a limited income tax on Washington’s wealthiest 1%, bringing in over $2 billion a year for healthcare and education. It failed, 65% to 35%.

• I-1053, this year’s Tim Eyman disaster, will require a two-thirds vote in the legislature or a vote of the people to raise taxes or close corporate tax loopholes. In this economy, this measure will surely mean more budget cuts. It passed, 65% to 35%

• I-1107 repealed a small tax on soda, bottled water, candy and gum that Poverty Action and other advocates passed during last year’s legislative session. These taxes would have brought in $300 million a year for schools, kids’ health care, domestic violence and sexual assault services, and many other basic services. It passed, 62% to 38%.

So, let’s get back to that optimism thing. How in the world can I possibly be optimistic when Washington is facing another $4.5 billion budget deficit and voters just repealed taxes and made it nearly impossible to raise revenue in 2011? How can I possibly be hopeful knowing that, as a result, Washington State is poised to be the first state to cut prescription drug benefits for people on Medicaid?

Canvassers' toolkit: clipboard and educational materials

To be honest, there’s not a lot of hope to be found if I only look at those daunting questions. For me, it’s about taking a wider view of election organizing and remembering that elections are only partly about the issues on the ballot. I became an organizer to help build political power in low-income communities, not just to pass or defeat ballot measures. The work of building political power is simply too big and too important to achieve in just one election season. It’s about the process of building trust and community, engaging new and infrequent voters, registering voters whose right to vote was recently restored, and talking to people about why their vote matters and how issues on the ballot will impact their communities.

Even with devastating election losses, I can still be proud of the work Poverty Action did this year to register over 1,200 new voters. I can still find hope in the knowledge that we reached out to 12,000 voters in low-income communities and communities of color and talked about the real impact of this year’s ballot measures on their communities. I will be encouraged when I remember that the building blocks to real political power are found in the countless conversations we had at transitional housing facilities, in food bank lines, and at resource fairs this summer and fall.

And those numbers and conversations matter. In a state where gubernatorial elections have been decided by just 133 votes (Gregoire in 2004), 1,200 newly registered voters, armed with knowledge and ownership of their role in state politics, can easily decide the outcome of future statewide elections in Washington. From my perspective, it’s hard to not feel optimistic about that!

Poverty Action initiative endorsement: YES on 1098 & 52, NO on everything else

This year, there are a record number of issues, initiatives and measures on the ballot in Washington State. And ALL of them will impact our state’s investments in the health and wellbeing of our communities, particularly our low-income communities and communities of color.

hands in air "voting"Solid Ground’s Statewide Poverty Action Network combed through all of the election information, researched what impact these ballot measures would have on our families, friends and neighbors, and came up with a list of endorsements. Solid Ground’s Board of Directors also endorsed these positions (with the exception of taking no action on I-1082 and Ref 52).

In short, Poverty Action urges you to vote YES on I-1098, APPROVE Referendum 52, and vote NO on everything else.

And here’s why:

VOTE YESVOTE YES ON I-1098 & REF. 52

I-1098 invests in Washington communities. Vote Yes
I-1098 would raise over $1 billion per year for health care and education by establishing a limited income tax on the wealthiest 3% of Washingtonians (individuals who make over $200,000/year or couples who make over $400,000/year).

Ref. 52 makes our schools safer and creates jobs. Vote Approve
Approving Referendum 52 means that our state can continue our commitment to making schools safer, saving energy and creating 30,000 new jobs.

VOTE NOVOTE NO ON EVERYTHING ELSE.

Big oil, big developers, big insurance and big banks have bankrolled these five dangerous initiatives that would cost Washington communities more than $1.2 billion.

I-1053 is Tim Eyman’s latest anti-tax disaster. Vote No
I-1053 would require a two-thirds vote in each house of the legislature or voter approval for every tax increase, surely leading to more cuts to priorities like education, health care and other critical programs.

I-1107 would lead to further cuts to education and health care. Vote No
I-1107 would cut $300 million from our schools and kids by repealing a small tax on soda, bottled water, candy and gum.

I-1082 is bad for you and good for the private insurance industry. Vote No
I-1082 would privatize our workers’ compensation insurance system, which protects workers who are injured on the job. This would cost our state millions, drive up employer costs and prioritize corporate profits over workers’ health.

I-1100 & I-1105 put our jobs, education, health care and public safety at risk. Vote No
By privatizing the sale of hard liquor, I-1100 & I-1105 would strip $350 million each year from local schools, health care, police, firefighters, and alcohol and drug abuse programs, and lead to more underage drinking, drunk driving and alcohol-related crime.

Still have questions? Email vote@povertyaction.org and we can help you figure it out.

Want to help us spread the word about these ballot measures? Email volunteer@povertyaction.org and we’ll get you set up.

Are we seriously talking about cutting GAU again?

We all hope that if we face a job loss or become disabled, we will have the support we need and the opportunity for a good quality of life. Strong public systems like General Assistance for the Unemployable (GAU), which is in the process of being renamed the Disability Lifeline, ensure all people can meet their basic needs when times are tough, as well as lay the foundation for economic recovery.No More Cuts

GAU/Disability Lifeline is more than just a social service program for people unable to work due to physical and mental disability. It is the assurance that, if something terrible happens that inhibits your ability to work, you will have some support. The $339 monthly cash grant and medical coverage that this program provides is often the difference between housing and homelessness, between a meal and going hungry. Currently, 21,000 people rely on GAU/Disability Lifeline to pay rent, cover critical medications, and pay for basic needs. Despite all of this, both the Governor and the Senate have proposed to drastically cut this much-needed program.

In their proposals, both the Governor and the Senate limit the amount of time a person can receive GAU, and the Senate reduces the already small monthly grant to a $50 stipend. This is outrageous. Now is not the time to make such drastic reductions to this crucial program. With less than one week left in the legislative session and legislators debating their budget proposals as I type, we must act NOW! We must urge our legislators to raise more revenue to protect GAU and the other critical programs that help people meet their basic needs.

At Poverty Action, we combed through the budget proposals so you wouldn’t have to. Check out our analysis of all three budget proposals.

Email your lawmakers or call them toll-free at 1-800-562-6000 and urge them to raise more revenue to protect the Disability Lifeline, formerly GAU, and other crucial programs. If you or someone close to you would be personally affected by the elimination of GAU or any other crucial program, please include that in your message.

Thanks for taking action to provide economic security for people with disabilities!

Washington can’t afford another all-cuts budget

Our communities thrive when all people can meet their basic needs and have opportunities to prosper. Our state has invested in our shared future by providing health care for kids, ensuring support for seniors and disabled adults, and increasing access to education. Last year, facing a $9 billion budget deficit, the legislature made devastating cuts to the public systems that help people meet their basic needs and provide for the health of our communities. These cuts caused 40,000 people to lose their health care, thousands of people with disabilities to lose their only source of income, and halved funding for affordable housing.
Washington citizens rally in Olympia in favor of increasing state revenue through taxes

Citizens rally for revenue, thanks to Fuse WA for the photo.

We can’t afford another all-cuts budget. It is time for our state to raise revenue. This Presidents’ Day,  February 15, an estimated 6,000 people rallied at the Capitol to call on our lawmakers to raise revenue to protect these investments and prevent another round of painful budget cuts. Newspapers, TV and radio across the state covered the rally that Poverty Action activist, Solid Ground staff, and Long Term Care Ombudsman Rose Floyd (wow – what a rockstar!) described as “diverse in every way possible, spirited, and optimistic.” She added that “it was a joy to be there. I think it was encouraging to those lawmakers who want to lead on increased revenue.”

These numbers are more evidence that Washingtonians overwhelmingly want a responsible state budget that protects our economic future by closing tax loopholes and raising new revenue. Demonstrators showed their strong opposition to more devastating cuts to health care, education, seniors and the environment.

We can’t let up now! Your state lawmakers need to hear from you TODAY. Send them an email and urge them to raise revenue to protect the public systems that help families meet their basic needs and have opportunities to prosper.

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