Schmudget Blog


A Conversation with our Outgoing Narver Fellow

Posted by April Dickinson at Jun 07, 2018 02:35 PM |
Filed under: BPC News

Hana Jang just completed her Betty Jane Narver Policy Fellowship with the Budget & Policy Center. She is receiving her master’s degree from the University of Washington School of Social Work this month. An advocate for social and economic justice, Hana’s studies focused on policies that promote economic prosperity and early childhood learning and development. We checked in with her to hear more about her time with us and what her hopes are for the future.

Why did you apply for the Narver Fellowship with us? Hana at Budget Matters in Seattle

I first learned of the Budget & Policy Center early into my graduate program at the University of Washington School of Social Work. I had just moved to Seattle after spending a number of years abroad, and found the Budget & Policy Center’s thoughtful and rigorous analyses to be helpful in orienting me to the policy landscape of Washington state. The Center has an amazing team of policy wonks who center the long-term well-being of Washingtonians through state-level policy analysis and advocacy, and I thought this would be a unique opportunity to learn from the experts.

 

What are some highlights of what you’ve learned?

One of the most exciting aspects of the Narver Fellowship was being able to expand on my prior knowledge and experience with policy advocacy, and apply it to the work being done at the Budget & Policy Center. I had the privilege of working closely with the Center’s senior analyst, Jennifer Tran, and communications director, Melinda Young-Flynn, on a soon-to-be-published brief highlighting how child savings accounts promote economic opportunities for Washington kids and families. Through this work, I was able to take a lead role in researching and analyzing data on child savings accounts, help with the production process, and build relationships with community organizations, legislators, and thought-partners to help elevate the conversation around asset-building in Washington.  

Being a Narver fellow also granted me access to a plethora of resources and opportunities to build knowledge in areas I wanted to grow in. I learned about the critical role the state budget plays in advancing policies that best uplift and care for Washington communities, while partnering with organizations to mobilize folks on the ground to push for change in Olympia.

What were some of your favorite experiences during your fellowship?

I have had so many amazing experiences as a Narver fellow, it is almost overwhelming to think about; but the most meaningful experiences came out of building relationships with folks who are working in various realms of policy and advocacy throughout Washington state, and throughout the country.

I had the chance to shadow Senator Rebecca Saldaña and learn about her approach to partnering with her district to work toward change through the legislative process. Also, I had the opportunity to shadow Lori Pfingst, chief of policy and programs at the Department of Social & Health Services [and former Budget & Policy Center staffer!] to gain an understanding of how state-level departments are creating pathways for every Washingtonian to move toward fulfilling their goals and dreams.

And although my time at the Center was filled with opportunities to learn and grow, I still most enjoyed the time staff members came together to eat lunch, share stories, and laugh uncontrollably together!

Did anything surprise you from your time with us?


The folks at the Center are doing really expert, dynamic, meaningful, and time-consuming work. Yet I was surprised by how much time was invested in my professional development and mentorship. I was regarded as an important voice at the table, and was treated as a member of staff.

A lot of time and energy goes into ensuring complex ideas and policies are accessible and approachable to the public. And although it was not surprising given the caliber of the organization, it was great to know that Budget & Policy is committed to going the extra mile to ensure that their materials are just that. 
  
How has the fellowship supported your career goals?

I am very fortunate to be starting a new phase of my career at a time when there are meaningful opportunities to engage in the policy arena and push the needle toward equity. The Narver Fellowship has equipped me with the tools to advocate for policies that promote equity and inclusion and work toward dismantling harmful narratives – and to do so in partnership with communities. I am grateful to the Budget & Policy Center for serving as a model for advancing bold policies and legislation, and I am hopeful for the opportunity to work with the Budget & Policy Center again in the future!

All of us at the Budget & Policy Center wish Hana the best of luck in the future!

Washington state’s members of Congress should reject SNAP cuts in the Farm Bill

Posted by April Dickinson at Apr 27, 2018 05:30 PM |
Filed under: Federal Issues, Poverty
By Hana Jang, Narver policy fellow

Now that Republicans in Congress have released the details of their partisan Farm Bill, it is clear that the bill’s proposals for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are as harmful as we feared. This bill would take our communities in the wrong direction when it comes to the well-being of our residents. Nearly 1 million Washingtonians use SNAP to feed their families, and this bill would result in many seeing their benefits reduced or cut altogether, putting them at risk of being hungry or falling into poverty. The Farm Bill must be rejected by Washington state’s members of Congress.


In Washington state, the proposed changes to SNAP would:

  • Create hardship for thousands of people throughout Washington state as a result of unnecessary new work requirements. Most people who participate in SNAP and can work, already do. But proposals in the bill would require almost all adult participants not receiving disability benefits – including people between the ages of 50 and 59 and parents with children over the age of 6 – to prove every month that they are working or attending an employment program at least 20 hours a week or that they are exempt from the requirement. This additional administrative process could mean that participants who are exempt or are meeting the requirement could have their benefits at risk if there is a slip-up in their monthly tracking. And people subject to the work requirement who cannot meet the minimum hours prescribed will lose their access to SNAP. Placing additional barriers to access to food assistance could mean people have to go without food.
  • Impose penalties on people who can’t meet the new requirements, including people who are working in jobs with insecure hours. The bill contains a provision that would penalize workers who already face hardship due to low wages or unpredictable schedules. Under this provision, failure to meet the minimum number of required monthly work hours just once would kick a SNAP participant off the program for 12 months. And a second failure would result in them losing benefits for 36 months. They could only regain benefits if they found a job that provided enough hours or if their circumstances change in a way that exempt them from this requirement. In other words, people who have fluctuating work schedules, which can already lead to financial insecurity, could be subject to greater financial hardship because of a schedule dictated by their employer.
  • Misuse tax dollars that should be strengthening our communities. Under the previous 2014 Farm Bill, 10 states (including Washington state) agreed to pilot new and innovative SNAP work and job-training programs to help identify effective ways to help SNAP participants obtain meaningful work that leads to success. The pilot programs are due to release their results in the next few years. Yet the current Farm Bill is proposing major changes to SNAP’s job training and education programs without waiting for the critical data and research that shows how the pilot programs are working. It would ultimately invest significant taxpayer dollars toward creating a new system to track SNAP participants’ work hours and an underfunded expansion of untested job training and education programs, rather than providing needed food assistance to families in our communities.

SNAP is already one of our nation’s most powerful and effective poverty- and hunger-reduction programs. It helps feed over 40 million Americans and keeps eight million out of poverty. Our U.S. representatives from Washington state must reject these proposals that would harm people who are working to make ends meet. They must protect SNAP’s legacy of trying to ensure everyone in our country can put food on the table.

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Threats to food assistance in Farm Bill could harm thousands of Washington households

Posted by April Dickinson at Apr 05, 2018 07:15 PM |
Filed under: Federal Issues, Poverty

By Misha Werschkul, executive director, and Hana Jang, Narver fellow

When Congress returns from spring recess on April 9, they will begin considering a Farm Bill that could undermine nearly four decades of progress in addressing hunger by including harmful cuts or changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP, and formerly known as food stamps), our nation’s largest and most effective anti-hunger program.

SNAP, which provides food assistance for one in every eight Washingtonians, helps people get back on their feet while boosting health, nutrition, and children’s learning. SNAP reaches over 900,000 Washington residents, including: families with children, teachers, support staff, cashiers, retail staff, home health aides, and many others. Many SNAP participants work, but often have jobs that offer low-wages or not enough hours to make ends meet. Nationally, SNAP keeps more than 8 million people out of poverty – including nearly four million children. And SNAP provides more than $1.3 billion in federal resources annually to help boost Washington’s economy.

SNAP helps 1 in 8 Washingtonians

As Congress begins to debate the Farm Bill, Washingtonians should watch for and reject:

1.    Harmful cuts to SNAP funding. SNAP is an incredibly effective anti-hunger program. Even with a modest average benefit of just $1.33 per person per meal, SNAP has a vital impact in our state, helping hundreds of thousands of our residents put food on the table. Cuts and harmful changes to SNAP that take away people's food have no place in the Farm Bill.

2.    Elimination of state flexibility. Washington state currently uses what’s known as “categorical eligibility” to help SNAP benefits phase out more slowly as a worker’s income increases. Taking away this option would punish people who work more hours or get a better-paying job with the goal of stabilizing their lives before moving away from SNAP.

3.    Increased paperwork and administrative requirements. One proposal under consideration is to undo the connection between Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and SNAP, also known as “Heat and Eat,” which allows Washington and other states to streamline administration of food assistance with utility benefit programs. This would result in costly and unnecessary new paperwork and administrative requirements for families and states.

4.    New, untested work requirements. The proposed Farm Bill may include harsh new work requirements and penalties that would eliminate SNAP as a core support for people who are unemployed or experience irregular work schedules. Research suggests that these types of proposals do little to promote work while pushing more people into deep poverty.

Washington’s members of Congress have historically shared a bipartisan commitment to SNAP as an effective way to help feed struggling Washingtonians and get them back on their feet. Our representatives in Congress must reject cuts to food assistance and focus on policies that help create jobs and boost wages instead of punishing people who are already facing economic hardship.

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