President Trump has promised to be a champion of people left behind by the economy. However, his budget takes aim at the very programs that serve them. In fact, all of the cuts come from the Non-Defense Discretionary spending area of the federal budget. This part of the budget funds key priorities like job training, education, affordable housing, and basic supports for children, families, and the aging. It also includes funding for border security, veterans' benefits, and the FBI, but since Congress is unlikely to cut these areas, programs that help workers and families would be particularly hard hit.
Trump’s budget proposal, entitled “America First: A Budget Blueprint for Making America Great Again,” would not, in fact, help the communities in our nation and in our state thrive. Here are five ways Trump’s budget proposals would hurt Washington state and its residents:
1. Shifting costs to our state government and making it harder to balance the state budget: Federal grants make up almost one third of the Washington state budget. (See chart below.) They pay for things like education, human services, the environment, and statewide emergency response. The budget proposal would cut federal grants to states, which would leave our state on the hook for $458.6 million per biennium to maintain these services. (That is not even taking into consideration the $2.5 billion our state would have to cover if the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act and cuts to Medicaid go through).
2. Making it harder for people to make ends meet: President Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, which helps people who don’t have enough money to pay their light and energy bills to keep the lights and heat/cooling on. This program – which largely serves people with low incomes and the elderly – would provide $113 million to the state in the 2017-2019 biennium. Trump’s budget would also eliminate the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides roughly $8.6 million per biennium to the state to help people with lower incomes weatherize their homes to save on energy bills.
3. Making it harder for parents to care for their kids: Many working families rely on before- and after-school programs to not only provide educational and enrichment opportunities for their kids, but also to ensure that kids are well-cared for while they work. Trump’s budget proposal would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. This program would provide $36.1 million for before- and after-school programs in Washington state in the next biennium. Eliminating the program could mean nearly 18,000 state children would lose educational, recreational, and enrichment programs outside school hours.
4. Making it harder to get a living-wage job: Whether you are a young person just starting out or you’ve been laid off and are back in the market, job-seeking is a daunting task. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides support to help eligible job seekers get education, training, and support services to succeed in the job market. WIOA grants to Washington totaled $137.5 million between 2015 and 2016. The Trump budget proposes cutting WIOA grants to states by 35 percent, which would mean the state would either need to come up with an additional $48.1 million in funds to cover the federal losses or serve 59,000 fewer people with job search and training support in the next biennium.
5. Making it harder to get affordable housing: Washington state is in the midst of a homelessness crisis. Homelessness increased 15 percent in 2015 and again by 7 percent in 2016. The Trump budget slates the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, a federal grant program to states to build affordable housing, for elimination. This program provides Washington state with about $38.1 million per biennium to issue to developers to build affordable housing units. Washington also stands to lose funding for Housing Choice Vouchers. These vouchers are an important tool in combating homelessness and providing people with low incomes with assistance to get housing in the rental market. In 2015, more than 50,000 Washington families had a roof over their heads thanks to this important program. Trump proposes to fund the vouchers at $1.7 billion below the amount necessary to maintain the current number of vouchers nationwide. That could mean big cuts to the number of households getting rental assistance in Washington.
And this is barely scratching the surface in terms of the cuts that the Trump budget is proposing.
President Trump’s budget proposal may have a difficult time clearing Congress. However, it represents a stark vision of what it would look like if Congress chooses to pursue a budget along similar lines: dramatic increases in military spending paid for with deep cuts to services and programs that help states support families, individuals, and workers. And again, this whole budget proposal is in addition to the dramatic cuts Washington state could be facing with the potential loss of ACA and Medicaid.
It’s time for policymakers in Washington state to take steps to reverse decades of widening economic disparities that threaten broad prosperity, now that it has again been shown that all income growth since 2009 continues to flow to the wealthiest Washingtonians.
An updated report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that the richest 1 percent of households – those making over $388,000 a year – captured all of the new income generated in Washington state between 2009 and 2013 (see graph). By contrast, and in a stark reversal from past decades, average incomes among the remaining 99 percent of Washingtonians declined during this period, causing far too many hardworking families to fall even further behind.
The richest 1 percent of Washingtonians didn’t always reap such an outsized share of income gains during periods of economic growth. Prior to 1980, the 99 percent typically captured at least 80 percent of all income gains during economic expansions.
Further, as the EPI report points out, it used to be considered outrageous for executives to receive multimillion dollar salaries and outsized bonuses while laying off workers. Today, as the vast majority of working people and families in Washington state continue to struggle, super-rich CEOs living here are doing better than ever. In fact, in 2015, the CEO of Washington state-based Expedia received the highest pay ($94.6 million) of any corporate chief executive in the county.
It has become abundantly clear in recent years that everyday Americans and Washingtonians are tired of the economic inequality that has become the norm. In our state, we need policies that help all communities thrive by strengthening employment and creating more living-wage jobs. We need to make sure our tax code doesn’t favor the wealthy and the politically connected over the common good.
In fact, our upside-down tax system – where Washingtonians with the lowest incomes pay seven times as much in state and local taxes as a share of their income than the richest 1 percent – makes it even harder for the 99 percent to get ahead.
Building a stronger Washington economy requires greater economic equality and overall equity. Lawmakers must undo the systemic inequities that have created gaps in opportunity for many people of color to receive good jobs and living-wage salaries.
In Washington state:
- Voters can help advance economic equality and close the opportunity gap if Initiative 1433, now gathering signatures, makes it on the November ballot and passes. It would incrementally raise the minimum wage to $13.50 over four years, increasing the take-home pay for 730,000 people working across a range of sectors. It would also provide paid sick leave, so parents don’t lose wages when they need to take care of themselves or their children when they’re sick.
- Lawmakers during the 2017 legislative session must pass the capital gains tax recently proposed by Governor Inslee and leaders in the State House, which has been endorsed by major papers and many community groups throughout our state. And they should use the revenue from capital gains to invest in education, health care, and other services that expand economic opportunities for everyone.
And as lawmakers work to craft policies that seek to provide economic opportunity to Washingtonians, they must be especially mindful that those policies empower those who have been most harmed by racism and other structural inequalities that fuel the rise in economic inequality.
All of Washington's children could have the opportunity to thrive in school and life if policymakers took key steps to improve economic security and remove barriers to success, our new report finds.
State of Washington’s Kids 2016, co-published with the Children’s Alliance through our Washington KIDS COUNT partnership, shows that children are better able to prosper when such basic needs are met as a secure place to sleep at night and food on the table. Yet four out of 10 kids in Washington state live in families that struggle to meet these basic needs, according to the report. This economic insecurity puts kids at greater risk of falling behind throughout their life – in school, jobs, personal health, and civic engagement. What's more, structural racism – which exists because of a historical legacy of discriminatory practices in housing, finance, and education – means that kids of color find themselves on increasingly unequal and unstable footing.
State of Washington’s Kids shows that:
- The number of homeless children is up by nearly 15,000 since 2008, and is particularly high among students of color.
- Just four in 10 children entering kindergarten are prepared in all six areas of readiness: social, emotional, physical, cognitive, literacy, and math. Only one in three American Indian/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students are prepared in all six areas of readiness.
- In all but two Washington counties, the number of child care slots available for hardworking parents is less than the number of children in need of such care.
There is plenty of reason for hope. The rate of low birthweight babies in our state has remained quite low – below 6.4 percent – since 2005. The number of children with health insurance increased to 96 percent in 2014. And on-time high school graduation rates in Washington have held steady, above 75 percent since 2010.
Nevertheless, much work remains to be done. We cannot achieve our promise of a brighter future for all children when so many kids of color are being left behind. Our report offers two multi-faceted solutions to provide all of Washington’s children with the opportunity to get ahead:
- Take meaningful steps to undo structural racism and the system of exclusionary practices and policies that breed inequities for kids of color. Replace them with solutions that enable kids from all backgrounds to succeed. One way policymakers can advance inclusivity is to use racial equity measurement tools to review the impact of proposed legislation that seeks to close the opportunity gap. [See our racial equity toolkit for one resource to accomplish this.] Another essential step is to work directly with leaders in communities of color to learn from them about recommended strategies to redress inequities.
- Invest in the success of whole families by recognizing that the well-being of children is inextricably tied to the well-being of their parents. Kids do better when their parents do better. That’s why two-generation approaches to poverty prevention in particular offer a good model. Proposed legislation focusing on intergenerational poverty that was introduced in the 2016 legislative session was a good start. Further, Initiative 1433, now gathering signatures for the November ballot, would smartly raise the take-home pay for the working parents of thousands of Washington children. And by providing paid sick and safe leave, it would also help Washington families by ensuring that workers don’t lose wages when they need to take care of themselves or their children when they’re sick.
Taking steps to implement these common-sense solutions would set Washington’s children up to have a healthy start in life, have their basic needs met, and succeed in school and life. We'll build a better future for all of us if we take the right steps for our children now.
Many Washingtonians who struggled during the recession are now on more stable footing thanks to the economic recovery, but there are still many people in our state who are facing barriers to employment and unable to make ends meet. And as of this month, thousands of those Washingtonians, including many veterans and homeless people, are losing their access to the Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP), a critical tool to help them put food on the table.
Strict time limits are being reinstated for SNAP – or Basic Food in Washington state – for non-disabled, childless adults who are unable to find full-time employment. This will result in some of our most vulnerable populations throughout the state facing an increase in hunger and hardship.
It's not too late for lawmakers to rethink the decision to allow these time limits to be reinstated.
The 1996 federal welfare reform law originally imposed time limits on individuals who are not working or participating in a 20-hour per week work training program. Those individuals could only receive SNAP for three months out of any three years. However, during the economic recession, states like Washington rightly chose to waive this rule in areas of high unemployment. Unfortunately, states have begun to re-impose the time limit as the economy improves. In Washington state, approximately 15,000 childless adults who have previously qualified for SNAP who are living in King, Snohomish, and parts of Pierce County are no longer receiving food assistance as of this month.
A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities sheds more light on who is impacted by these cuts:
- Those facing cuts to food assistance are some of the poorest in the state, including those who are homeless, veterans, and part-time workers. Impacted individuals have extremely low incomes – an average of $2,000 per year for a single person in 2015. Many live in rural areas where poverty can be especially high and jobs are few and far between. In addition, the number of underemployed workers (i.e. those who work fewer hours than they wish, or in jobs for which they are overqualified or underpaid) among communities of color remains especially high, further evidence that our economic recovery is not being felt equally for all Washingtonians (see graphic).
- Many of those impacted do not qualify for any other forms of assistance to help them get enough to eat or make ends meet. The reinstatement of the three-month time limit is especially detrimental to this population as there are no other benefits available to most unemployed workers without children.
- Many face significant barriers to employment, including limited education and skills, or are caring for elderly, sick, or disabled relatives. This impacts their ability to find work. And those people who do find work often struggle to meet the 20-hour requirement.
Although the overall unemployment rate is falling in Washington state, other labor market data indicate that many people who want to work still cannot find jobs, while others who want to work full-time can find only part-time employment (see graphic). In addition, access to employment programs is limited in most states. This means that a number of individuals will lose SNAP regardless of how hard they are looking for work or how much they want to attend a job training program. Many of those impacted are already working, but may not be able to find the hours needed to meet the requirement.
[Click on graphic to enlarge it.]
Cutting off this basic assistance to keep food on the table for the poorest Washingtonians will not mean that these people will be better able to find employment or more hours of work. It will simply mean that people who are already having a hard time making ends meet will now have to deal with increased hunger on top of everything else.
While congressional action to reverse or limit this draconian rule seems unlikely, states can take steps to limit its impact. In Washington state, lawmakers and advocates have taken some laudable steps to do so: They're extending the waiver in areas still struggling with high unemployment, increasing access to job training programs, and examining rules and exemptions to ensure that individuals are not arbitrarily cut off. Nevertheless, 15,000 Washingtonians could still face even more hardship as a result of these limits. And more needs to be done.
To learn more about the SNAP time limits and their impacts on communities, read this new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
*The previous version of this post did not mention the steps that Washington is taking to limit the impact of these federal SNAP time limits. The post has been updated to provide more detailed information about some of the protections in place for people facing losses to food assistance. Thank you to Christina Wong, Public Policy Manager with Northwest Harvest, for contributing to this post.
The research is clear – when children grow up in poverty, it has long-term consequences for their future well-being, as well as that of the state. With nearly one of every three children in Washington state living in families at risk of not meeting basic needs, poverty poses a significant threat to future generations, as well as to the contributions they can make to our communities and economy.
Lawmakers can help improve the well-being of children by passing House Bill 2518, which supports a two-generation approach to family economic security (see graphic) – so that both parents and their children have the opportunity to get ahead.
Nationally, two-generation approaches – those that focus on economic success of whole families, as opposed to a focus on children or adults in silos – are gaining momentum. HB 2518 joins these national efforts by creating a results-focused, evidence-based state effort to improve child and family well-being in our state by:
- Directing state agencies across sectors – early learning, health and human services, and higher education – to create a data system to track intergenerational poverty each year;
- Creating a state commission to summarize the data in an annual report; and
- Creating a community advisory committee – made up of advocates, faith-based leaders, government representatives, and academic experts – to provide input on the data and on the creation of a long-term plan to improve intergenerational family economic security.
It is noteworthy that this legislation rightly puts a focus on results and aims to create a commission that has the power to act. We further encourage lawmakers to strengthen this bill by developing explicit goals to achieve equity for children and families of color. We also recommend that policymakers include families with low incomes in a decision-making capacity with the commission. With these additions, HB 2518 would be a strong first step at laying a foundation to create economic security for future generations of Washingtonians.
In November, the Budget & Policy Center highlighted the need for a two-generation approach to reduce child poverty in Washington state. Listen to the audio of the presentation given by the Center’s Research & Policy Director, Lori Pfingst.
As the 2016 Washington state legislative session gets underway today, policymakers have an opportunity to keep the momentum going from the 2015 session by promoting policies that advance the long-term growth of our state's economy and the well-being of all Washingtonians. At the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, we'll be working to continue progress on several common-sense policy ideas we developed for the 2015-2017 biennium.
In the last session, legislators took steps to support workers, families, and children by closing four unproductive tax breaks, partially restoring the cash grant for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, allowing families to stay on Working Connections Child Care for a continuous 12 months, and restoring funding for the State Food Assistance Program. [See our 2016 final budget analysis for more details.] In addition, many other items from our Legislative Agenda -- including implementing a tax on capital gains, raising the statewide minimum wage, and fully funding the Working Families Tax Rebate -- were included in one or more budget proposals or approved by either the House or Senate. These proposals are all ready for the Legislature to take action on in 2016.
As we enter this session, new opportunities are emerging to advance more policies that create the building blocks of a strong economy. For example, the Budget & Policy Center is working on ways to bolster family security from generation to generation so Washingtonians who struggle today can build a future. This session, we will advocate for better data on intergenerational poverty and for the creation of long-term goals – that the State is held accountable for – to promote prosperity for parents and their children. In addition:
- As advocates plan ballot initiatives in 2016 to improve the well-being of Washingtonians – including raising the statewide minimum wage and creating a statewide carbon reduction program – legislators could also take their own steps to help move these priorities forward.
- The Legislature can respond to the State Supreme Court’s McCleary case mandate to act on school funding, especially in terms of teacher compensation. Governor Inslee’s recent supplemental budget proposal that closed four unproductive tax breaks to partially address the need for better teacher pay was a good start. Now the Legislature should go further to reform our revenue system and make the public investments needed to end the teacher shortage in our state.
During the 2016 session, which is expected to last 60 days, the Budget & Policy Center will continue to promote our 2015-2017 priorities for shared prosperity in Washington state. We will put particular emphasis on advancing racial equity and on some other key areas where there is likely to be most potential for progress in a short session:
- Racial Equity: Policymakers should pass legislation, like Senate Bill 5752, to require racial and ethnic impact statements that assess how proposed policies close the opportunity gap for people of color.
- Revenue: Policymakers should close even more unproductive tax breaks, advance a capital gains tax, and improve tax-break transparency and accountability. These steps will rightly support a revenue system that provides the resources needed for all Washingtonians to make ends meet – such as living-wage jobs and good public transportation. And if Initiative 1366 is not struck down by the courts, the Legislature should overturn it in order to preserve essential investments and prevent endless gridlock around state tax and budget decisions.
- Economic Security: Legislators should support meaningful public investments to help people who are falling behind in Washington state, including programs like Working Connections Child Care. They should also establish and be accountable to a long-term vision to increase family economic security.
- Education: And they should support basic education at the level of funding required by the McCleary ruling, without taking resources away from other vital services. Focus needs to be put on improving salaries for teachers and ensuring that there is an equitable, high-quality K-12 school system that enables all our children to do their best.
Find our full 2015-17 legislative agenda here.
No matter what indicator of child well-being you choose to focus on, it is almost without fail that children from low-income backgrounds are doing worse on it. When children do not have their basic needs met – even for a short period of time – it affects their brain development, the strength of their relationships, their ability to learn and perform in school, and their physical and mental health. So it goes without saying that the economic security of parents is inextricably tied to the well-being of their children. Indeed, family economic security is a precondition for a child to thrive. And Washington policymakers can help create the conditions for families to do better if they consider the needs of the whole family.
In Washington state, a surprising share of our children – almost one in three – are living in families that have a hard time meeting basic needs (living below 200 percent of the federal poverty line).
Rates of Washingtonians struggling to make ends meet range from a low of 11 percent in the 41st legislative district (Mercer Island, Bellevue, Newcastle, and Lake Sammamish) and 45th legislative district (Seattle) to a high of 47 percent in the 3rd legislative district (Spokane)).
The interactive map below demonstrates these rates of economic hardship across the state. (Hover over the map for more details and also see the fact sheet here.)
That’s way too many kids who may not have enough to eat, a consistent place to sleep, or the resources to afford a trip to the doctor. The growing research on brain science suggests that children who grow up with economic hardship are at greater risk of experiencing events that lead to levels of stress so toxic to them and their families that the impact will ripple throughout their lifetime. And if the individual impact of economic hardship on children doesn’t raise eyebrows, this statistic should: A conservative estimate of the economic costs of children who grow up in poverty is $11.7 billion per year in Washington state.
We need to rethink child poverty in Washington state. The individual, societal, and economic costs are too great, and would surely be trumped by the benefits to reduce it. The question is – how?
Nationally, two-generation approaches to reducing poverty – those that focus on economic success of families, as opposed to a focus on children or adults alone or in silos – are gaining momentum and showing promising results. In Colorado, Utah, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma – to name just a few states where two-generation policies and programs are being put to the test – lawmakers, agencies, and service providers are taking innovative and holistic approaches to advancing family economic security. They are doing this by coordinating across five key domains – high-quality early childhood education; post-secondary education and career pathways; asset-building; health & well-being; and social capital (see graphic).
Early investment in two-generation programs like CareerAdvance, Jeremiah Program, and Keys to Degrees are paying off. With basic needs of the family met, these programs are leading to living-wage careers for parents, better education outcomes for kids, and a low rate of return to social benefit programs.
Washington state is well-positioned to adopt a two-generation approach to reducing child and family poverty. The expansion of a high-quality early learning system for children under the Early Start Act, as well as promising career pathways for low-income parents under the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act, are ripe for integration of two-generation programs that advance the well-being and security of families. We also have nationally recognized programs and models already in place to build off, like IBEST, Opportunity Center for Employment and Education, and Head Start/ECEAP.
The evidence is as compelling as it is concrete – the benefits of reducing child poverty far outweigh the costs of the investments to make it happen. We encourage lawmakers to rethink Washington state’s approach to reducing child poverty in the upcoming legislative session.
Our Research and Policy Director, Lori Pfingst, recently gave a two-part presentation to the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee highlighting this two-generation approach for achieving family economic security in our state. Listen to the audio of her presentation here.