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Lawmakers Should Strengthen Programs that Support Work

Posted by Lori Pfingst at Jan 23, 2013 11:20 PM |
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Part II in a series on investments that will help rebuild the middle class and put Washington state on a stronger path to prosperity.

Washington state’s weak economy requires greater investment in programs that help people find or keep a job, and help mitigate the impact of poverty on kids.  As the Legislature debates a new budget, the focus should be on strengthening WorkFirst, our state’s main program to help children and families during tough times.

During the 2012 legislative session the single largest cut to the state budget was to the WorkFirst program, in which seven of every 10 recipients is a child.  The cut weakened a program proven to help parents find or keep a job and meet their children's basic needs.

As a result of cuts to WorkFirst:

  • Cash assistance has declined.  Today, a family of three can receive a maximum of $478 per month to make ends meet.  That is only one-quarter of the amount needed to cover a family’s basic needs, like food, housing, clothing, and school supplies (see graph). Cash assistance is not adjusted for inflation. When combined with a 15 percent cut in 2010, the value of the grant has declined by 40 percent since 1996.
WorkFirst

 

  • Cuts to a critical lifeline of support. Washington state is enforcing a harsh 60-month lifetime limit on WorkFirst benefits, which has forced 27,000 people off the program even though unemployment remains exceedingly high, especially in rural parts of the state.  Two of every three kicked off the program is a child, and time limits drastically reduces their access to resources that mitigate the impact of poverty. (see graph).

60month

In a tough economy, programs that help people work should be strengthened, not cut. When more families are able to achieve economic security, children are more likely to thrive and the economy will grow. 

Also in this series: Strong Public Policies Essential in a Weak Economy.

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HIGHLIGHTS

Legislative Testimony

Senior Budget Analyst Kim Justice recently testified before Senate Ways and Means against a bill that would fund education at the expense of other budget investments. Watch it here. 

Kim 5881

Inside Olympia

Executive Director Remy Trupin appeared on TVW's "Inside Olympia" to discuss the budget, revenue options, and the impact of the McCleary decision going forward. The whole interview can be found here. 

Remy TVW -March 14


Budget Matters 2013

More than 300 people -- advocates, students, lawmakers, and policy experts joined us for our second annual policy conference. We heard from Heather McGhee, Jared Bernstein, and Governor Inslee.

Click here for video clips, photos, and PowerPoint presentations from the break-out sessions.

Our new video has highlights from the day. 

Heather McGhee


Save the date for this year's conference: Friday, December 12th, 2014 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.