Sonya Campion celebrated

Sonya Campion (Campion Foundation photo)

Sonya Campion (photo courtesy of the Campion Foundation)

Sonya Campion and the Campion Foundation have long been among the most powerful champions of the role nonprofits play in moving public policy through advocacy. This summer they were recognized for their visionary leadership by being named to the Top 50 Power & Influence list published by the The NonProfit Times.

“Campion is a rare hybrid of talented fundraiser and shrewd funder,” writes the Times, a nationally recognized leader covering nonprofit management. “The social entrepreneurs in the Northwest also love her passion for new ideas and methods of ‘catalytic philanthropy’ and service. Now she’s collaborating to push board members to speak up for and advocate for organizational mission.”

Campion has long supported Solid Ground and our Statewide Poverty Action Network advocacy branch.

“Sonya Campion understands that the support of advocacy and systems change work is key to ending homelessness. Her understanding of the importance of strong nonprofit operations has benefited so many in our community,” states Gordon McHenry, Jr., President & CEO of Solid Ground. “Campion’s work has encouraged nonprofits to work together and believe in the strength of collaboration when addressing issues that affect us all. Her leadership has allowed nonprofits, funders and the community to have substantive conversations on how to create significant change.”

“Solid Ground and our community are blessed to collaborate with Campion,” McHenry says. “Her personal and foundation support of our advocacy and our operations has been extremely important in helping us fulfill our mission to end poverty.”

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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates 25 years

Shelley Hawkins, longtime disability awareness trainer at Solid Ground Transportation, tells me she’s going to teach me something. She asks me to hold my arm out. In order to assist her from her chair to her walker, I loosely extend my arm. She straightens my arm, tells me to widen my stance. She hoists herself up, using my weight rather than my strength. As both a trainer and user of the ACCESS van service, Shelley has a comprehensive understanding of what people living with disabilities require. She instructs her drivers to never lift passengers. They can lift themselves with a little leverage.

ShelleyHawkins

Shelley Hawkins is a Solid Ground Transportation trainer.

For the past 25 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has provided that leverage for disabled people to pursue autonomous lives. The act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, and governmental activities. Shelley reminds me that the ADA equal access provisions mean nothing if they are not implemented effectively. She’s devoted the last 15 years to train ACCESS drivers on disability awareness, ADA compliance, and passenger assistance.

Tomorrow, July 22, Disability Rights Washington will hold a 25th anniversary rally at Westlake Park to celebrate the meaningful freedom the legislation has afforded the disabled population. Shelley recalls how “30 years ago, no one was even talking about this. People with disabilities stayed home.” Before ADA, social agencies provided accommodating transportation services only to people living below a certain income threshold. The ADA extended eligibility for those free services to anyone who could no longer take a fixed route due to physical or cognitive impairments.

Shelley trains ACCESS drivers – a service that provides curb-to-curb transportation – because she realizes that transportation is the crucial element of autonomous living. Without services such as ACCESS provided by the ADA, people with disabilities face daily frustrations – unable to get to the grocery store, or perform the essential errands that others take for granted. Even where ADA ideals fall short in practice, Shelley appreciates when “[she] knows they tried to fix it. That matters.” We should celebrate the signing of the ADA because it represents a step in the right direction, the result of people advocating for themselves.

Additionally, I hope the 25th anniversary of ADA opens a conversation about how disability awareness can be improved. In Shelley’s eyes, the ultimate goal is to eliminate obstacles that demand outside assistance. She shared an anecdote from her trip to Germany: “You can’t put an elevator in a castle, but the Germans will pick you up and carry you to the top of the castle if that’s what you want to do.” Although the final outcome appears the same, anyone would prefer the independence of the elevator.

People with disabilities encounter a host of accessibility limitations that fall through the cracks of the ADA. Oftentimes sidewalks will have curb cuts on one side that don’t match the curb cut on the other side. A flimsy lift rather than a durable elevator; small doors on the accessible side of the building; buttons on the wrong side of the door. These accommodations are compliant with ADA regulations, but in an attempt to incur only minimum costs, companies and public utilities fall short of a minimum humanity. They force people to seek assistance where they could otherwise be independent. Shelley expressed some dismay that “you try to go in and change it; they misinterpret what the disabled populations [are] asking for, and change it in a way they didn’t expect. That’s not helping.” Helping is listening.

Much to the credit of ADA legislation, we’ve made great progress in disability awareness the past few decades. People living with disabilities know they can transport to their jobs affordably. They know they can access the restrooms at their jobs. They can get drinks with friends after work. That’s worth celebrating.

Moving forward, a level of personal thoughtfulness should transcend the bare minimum regulations of the ADA in both accessibility design and disability services. More so, programs should be aware that the less external assistance required the better. Shelley tells her drivers that passengers don’t want them breaking their backs trying to assist them. Straighten your arm, widen your stance – provide leverage.

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

Demand fair revenue!

Protester calls for fair revenue in OlympiaFair revenue means asking everyone to pay their fair share and ending the perpetual cycle of revenue crises, while creating a state where everyone can meet their needs. Tell your Washington state lawmakers that it is time to raise fair revenue!

Our state has the most unfair tax system in the nation. Low-income and middle-income people in our state pay seven times more taxes – as a proportion of income – than our state’s wealthiest folks.

Only a few cents of every dollar the state spends on its constitutional obligations (education, highway patrol, etc.) were generated by Business and Occupation (B&O) taxes. Worse still, these business taxes were paid almost entirely by small businesses! Last year, five of our biggest industries combined – aerospace, high-tech, agriculture, timber and mining – contributed only 4% of all the B&O taxes collected. That’s right: Altogether they paid a fraction of a cent on every dollar of taxes collected. Now that is unfair revenue!

Unsurprisingly, this upside-down tax system disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income families the most.

Fair revenue allows us to use our dollars effectively. For example, it allows us to fund both education and social services, instead of pretending that you can gut one to fund the other and call it a “solution.” The good news is that real solutions abound. These solutions are:

  • Fair: Ensuring the wealthiest 2% pay their fair share by creating a state capital gains tax. This would tax profits from the sale of corporate stocks and other luxury financial assets.
  • Accountable: Eliminating wasteful tax breaks by closing tax loopholes for banks, oil refineries, and many others.
  • Sufficient: Raising needed revenue for education through putting a price on carbon pollution.

It’s time for our lawmakers to stop wasting our tax dollars by ignoring the solutions in front of them that support our basic needs, fully fund education, and help small businesses grow. By raising fair revenue, we can ensure that we are treating all our residents justly, regardless of race and class. But equally important, we also ensure that our growing economy supports a state where everyone prospers – rather than a state of haves and have-nots.

New Special Session means a new action! Email your lawmakers and ask them to support the fair revenue solutions put forth in the latest House budget proposal. The House budget takes a step in the right direction by making sure our wealthiest residents are held responsible for their fair share through a capital gains tax, and by increasing accountability through closing tax breaks for large profitable corporations.

Honor our homeless vets by providing them housing!

Homeless vet holding sign asking for helpWar & Peace. Some say that to appreciate the benefits of peace, one must first understand the horrors of war. Sixteen years into the 21st Century, I think we have had enough war and conflict; we need more peace. I am grateful for those who choose to serve our country through military service.

On this Memorial Day, it is important that we take time to remember and honor all who have died protecting our nation’s security and the freedoms we expect and rely upon each and every day. And it is time to increase our national commitment to honor homeless vets by providing them with housing.

Today is the first Memorial Day Holiday since our role in the war in Afghanistan ended, a 13-year-long war where over 2,200 US military women and men were killed. When we honor our military, it is also important to lift up their families for whom this holiday is a time of painful grieving.

Veterans and their families have earned a special place in our community, yet we as a society fail them too often – ignoring the many traumas of war and the unique needs of veterans and their families for support post their service on the battlefields.

One important measure of our success in supporting veterans is meeting our commitment that “every veteran who has fought for American has a home in America.

We are making progress toward the national goal to ensure that all veterans and their families have a home, yet on this Memorial Day, there are still over 50,000 homeless veterans in the United States whose live are defined by living on the streets, in shelters or in transitional housing. It is unacceptable that in our own King County community, there are over 675 veterans who are homeless

So when we remember, honor and celebrate our veterans who have died in service to our country, let’s also remember our veterans who have served, come back to the United States, and who need and deserve our gratitude and a home.

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.

MLK Lobby Day: Making our voices heard

In late 2005, Marcy Bowers, now Director of Solid Ground’s Statewide Poverty Action Network, was hired as a Community Organizer to support their first-ever MLK Lobby Day event. Ten years later, this large gathering of people from all over Washington state is still going strong, mobilizing hundreds of people living on low incomes and their allies to come together in Olympia on MLK Day to advocate with their state senators and representatives, and to promote change during the legislative session.

Members of District 33 at Poverty Action’s Activist Space photobooth.

Members of District 33 at Poverty Action’s Activist Space photobooth.

In keeping with the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Lobby Day is scheduled on his day of honor in hopes of stimulating action for social, racial and economic justice. Since it is a legal holiday, a greater number of working adults can attend than might on a typical work day.

Lobby Day is comprised of about six hours of speeches, advocacy training, and an “Activist Space”/photobooth where people can share their stories through photos and postcard writing. In the afternoon, participants fan out on the Capitol Campus for meetings with their own district legislators. This year, roughly 200 attendees participated in 90 meetings, with about 30 of Washington’s 49 districts represented. Community Organizer Davíd Reyes scheduled these meetings in advance of the event so that participants had the chance to make their voices heard with decision makers in their home districts.

200 participants gathered at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Olympia to advocate for change during meetings with their legislators.

200 participants gathered at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Olympia to advocate for change during meetings with their legislators.

Before Lobby Day, the Poverty Action Board – comprised of a majority of people of color and people living on low incomes from all over the state – hosts listening sessions with members from across the state to establish the themes they will primarily advocate for throughout the legislative session. This year’s priorities included:

  • criminal justice reform through reduction or elimination of Legal Financial Obligations
  • a greater Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant
  • consumer protections against predatory lending and debt services

Lobby Day connects the public policies that shape the framework of our society and the individuals affected by it. Citizens who advocate for change on Lobby Day bring a personal face and story to the issues that most affect them – and by meeting with their lawmakers, they can see firsthand how their voice can make a significant impact, which can result in real changes. The event creates an indescribable sense of solidarity as individuals bond together as a community for the day.

Community Relations & Development Manager Roshni Sampath has been involved in Lobby Day activities for several years. Through the photographs staged in the Activist Space, she has watched families returning with their children growing older and more passionate as time passes on. Other moments captured this year are shown in the slideshow below.

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After Lobby Day, participants can continue to make their voices heard through the SPEAK project, as well as attending hearings in Olympia. It is important to not let the feeling of empowerment that Lobby Day imparts on attendees and supporters alike fade. Rather, we should build upon the energy from the legislative meetings, positive interactions and comradery between the districts to effect both immediate and long-term changes for Washington state’s low-income families and communities.

For more information about current issues, see Poverty Action’s 2015 Legislative Agenda online. And throughout the legislative session, you can stay in touch with legislative priority progress by signing up to receive their Network News, following their social media on Facebook and Twitter, or via their website.

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