Senate Budget would Cut Vital Support for Struggling Families
WorkFirst is a program that provides vital support to families struggling to make ends meet while helping them enter or reenter the work force. It is more important than ever during this economy. The Senate budget has proposed cutting the already inadequate financial assistance grant provided to families on Workfirst by 7.5 percent.
The monthly WorkFirst grant for a family of three was set at $546 in 1993 and has not increased since then other than a three percent bump in 2008. Since 1993, inflation has pushed the average cost of goods and services up. Because the grant level has not risen with inflation, its value has fallen by 32 percent. In other words, a family relying on WorkFirst in 2010 is able to pay for only 68 percent of the goods and services that a similar family would have been able to purchase in 1993. Under the Senate proposal, the value of the WorkFirst grant would be only 63 percent of the 1993 level.
The benefit level provided by the WorkFirst program falls short when compared to the state’s own calculation of a basic standard of living. The state publishes an annual estimate of the amount of money families need per month (currently $1,767 for a family of three) in order to maintain a very basic standard of living during a temporary period. This "need standard" is adopted into Washington Administrative Code.
As the graph below shows, the grant level has fallen dramatically relative to the need standard. In 1983, it met 63 percent of the need standard. By 1993, it had fallen to 49 percent. The grant level now meets just under one-third of the need standard. It would fall even further under the Senate proposal.