Schmudget Blog

New "public charge" proposal would harm Washington families

Federal policy proposal targets immigrants with low incomes and would reverberate across our communities

by Liz Olson, State Priorities Partnership fellow

Immigrants should not be forced to choose between permanent legal status and the ability to meet their most basic needs. But a Trump Administration proposal to radically re-shape the "public charge" rule (a component of federal immigration policy) would penalize non-citizens for accessing basic benefits that help people get and keep jobs, stay healthy, and put food on the table.

The Trump Administration’s proposed changes to the public charge rule wrongly make it harder for many immigrants to obtain green cards or other visas to enter the United States. Under the proposed rule, immigration officials could reject green card or visa applications if an immigrant has received, or is judged likely to receive in the future, any of a range of health, nutrition, and housing supports. Immigration officials may also consider an individual’s family income, and could reject applications from those who earn less than 125 percent of the poverty line. Overall, the changes would penalize immigrants with low family incomes and favor wealthier immigrants.

At its heart, the administration’s proposal is part of an effort to transform family-based immigration into a vastly more restrictive system. The rule changes would have an outsized impact on Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander communities due to current immigration patterns and the disproportionate barriers to economic security these groups face. The administration’s record suggests that these racial disparities are not accidental. Public charge rule changes are an extension of the xenophobia marking Trump’s travel ban, family separation at the southern border, and other policies that seek to bar people of color from entering the U.S.

Trump’s proposal dramatically expands the set of benefit programs considered under the public charge determination. While the current policy considers cash aid from Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, General Assistance, or long-term institutional care, the harsher Trump rule additionally includes Non-Emergency Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Low-Income Subsidy for prescription drug costs under Medicare Part D, and public housing. Officials would be called upon to consider whether a person has received, or is likely to ever receive, even a modest amount from any of these benefit programs. (For additional information, see the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign resources.)

In Washington state, this proposal would harm many immigrants and many more U.S.-born residents connected to them through family.

If the Trump rule were applied to everyone, nearly one in three Washingtonians would struggle to pass the test.

The newly proposed rule changes are highly restrictive and depart significantly from the current policy’s standard. To demonstrate the magnitude of the Trump changes, just consider what the public charge rule would mean if it were applied to all Washingtonians. Hypothetically, if the new standards were applied to U.S-born residents of Washington state (who, as non-immigrants, are not actually subject to the public charge determination), thirty-one percent could be considered a likely public charge.

Similarly, almost one third of immigrants in Washington could also fail the new test. This represents a dramatic increase in the percentage of immigrants who could be considered a public charge, and thus struggle to qualify for a green card or other visa. (See chart below for more details.)

Click on image to enlarge.

Public Charge 1

The fact is that a large number of Washingtonians – regardless of their immigration status – make use of nutrition, health, and housing supports in any given year in order to make ends meet during hard times. Immigrants do not use public benefits at a higher rate than U.S.-born people, and the new public charge rule sets up an unfair standard.

Over half a million Washingtonians may experience a chilling effect.

Trump’s rule changes could potentially impact up to 580,000 people in Washington, including hundreds of thousands of young children, who may experience a widespread chilling effect.(1) (See the chart below.) Beyond its direct effects on immigrants who would be subjected to the new public charge test, the rule is expected to sow fear across immigrant communities, as individuals and families are likely to be frightened and confused about the potential consequences of applying for food, health, and housing supports.

People in families where at least one member is a non-citizen are likely to worry that receiving public benefits could endanger their relative’s immigration status. Some people may choose to forgo benefits that would help meet their basic needs, and others (though not all) could be motivated to disenroll from supports they are currently receiving. This represents a grave risk to the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians, who could forgo access to health care and adequate food out of fear of repercussions for the immigration statuses of their loved ones.

Click on image to enlarge.

Public Charge chilling effect

Trump’s proposal would lead to significant economic loss in Washington state.

The acute harm Trump’s public charge rule would cause for non-citizen individuals, and for families of varying immigration statuses, is expected to have far-reaching effects across our state. As some people who experience the chilling effect disenroll from benefits they currently receive, federal funds from assistance programs like SNAP and Medicaid will disappear from our state economy. The loss of SNAP funding would reduce spending in grocery stores and supermarkets. Similarly, families’ loss of Medicaid coverage would cut into income for hospitals and doctors. (2) As families struggle to make up for the resulting increases in food and health care costs, they would reduce their spending in other areas as well.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that if 25 percent of people who currently receive SNAP or Medicaid and belong to families in which at least one member is a non-citizen feel compelled to disenroll from their benefits, Washington would lose $326 million in direct federal dollars. This funding would be taken from the pockets of families with low incomes, the local businesses where they shop, and the workers employed at these businesses. In all, this loss of federal funds could cut up to 4,000 jobs (3); and cost the state about $631 million in lost economic activity. (4) The chart below provides these figures as well as estimates of the economic loss that would be sustained at a 15 and 35 percent disenrollment rate. (5)

Click on image to enlarge.

Public charge economic loss

The time is now to speak out against this proposal!

Basic nutrition, health, and housing programs are essential supports that help kids reach their full potential, help adults find work, and help families get ahead. Turning to SNAP or Medicare Part D for help with grocery bills or the high cost of prescription medication should not count against someone when they seek a green card or other visa. Instead, immigration policies should safeguard our right to access benefits that help us contribute to our communities and grow the economy.

In Washington – as all across the U.S. – immigrants make invaluable contributions to rich cultural diversity, economic vibrancy, and the collective spirit of our state. Tell the Trump Administration that our state cannot prosper if our immigrant family members, friends, and neighbors are afraid to get the help they need to stay healthy and raise children who thrive.

To speak out, submit comments via the Washington state Protecting Immigrant Families campaign portal. The public comment period is open through Monday, December 10, 2018. The Department of Homeland Security is required by law to review and consider all comments before the proposed rule can take effect. The stories of individuals, families, and community organizations have the power to halt Trump’s harmful proposal. For guidelines on how to submit a unique and effective comment, see this guide from the National Immigration Law Center.

1.) Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of state population data. This estimate of the population who may experience a chilling effect includes anyone in a family that has received nutrition, health, or housing supports, and where at least one member of the family is a non-citizen. 2.) Uncompensated care funds must also be replenished to make up for losses in emergency care of people without health insurance, but this cost is not included in CBPP’s analysis of the economic impacts. 3.) The analysis of direct loss to Washington was performed by Danilo Trisi of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the analysis of economic ripple effects was performed by Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute. 4.) The extent of employment impact depends on the state of the overall economy, with a higher impact during times of high overall unemployment, when these programs serve as both a safety net and an automatic economic stabilizer. Since the Trump Rule would be a permanent measure, there would be periods in the economic cycle the predicted economic impact would be higher and when it would be lower.

Washingtonians should be paid for the hours they work

Proposed updates to state overtime rules will improve work-life balance and increase income for hardworking people


By Liz Olson, State Priorities Partnership Fellow

We all want to live in a state where working people are fairly compensated for the hours they put in on the job, have the ability to balance work with their personal lives, and have a chance to get ahead. Governor Inslee and the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries have an opportunity to move us closer to this vision by modernizing our state’s overtime rules – a key labor protection for working people in our state.

Overtime protections are supposed to ensure that workers receive pay 1.5 times their normal rate when they work more than 40 hours in a week. Yet currently, more than 400,000 people in Washington are at risk of not being adequately compensated for their overtime hours, all because state leaders have not updated the rule that determines who is eligible for overtime protections in more than 40 years [1]. These include low- and moderate-income workers with little bargaining power, like frontline supervisors in the fast food and retail industries, paralegals, and office managers. These and many other workers have been left vulnerable to employers who can effectively get their employees’ time and money for free. 

Here’s the problem: Employers are not legally required to pay salaried workers overtime pay if they earn above a certain salary threshold and work in bona fide executive, administrative, or professional jobs. But in Washington state, the overtime salary threshold has become so eroded by inflation that it falls below what a full-time minimum wage worker would be paid in our state. What’s more, the “executive, administrative, and professional” (EAP) duties tests are imprecise and out of sync with the modern workplace, leaving room for workers to be improperly classified and denied overtime protections. 

Too many Washington workers’ earnings have stagnated even as they’ve contributed to substantial productivity growth in recent decades. Here’s why it’s time to update their overtime rules:

  • More than 400,000 workers in Washington would benefit if the salary threshold were raised to 2.5 times the state minimum wage in 2020 [2]. Of these, slightly less than half are employees that would gain access to overtime pay, and slightly more than half would benefit from decreased risk of being wrongly misclassified as EAP.
  • Expanded overtime protections would broaden access to financial security and better work-family balance for many people in our state. Even as lower-income employees work hard to move up in their jobs – for example, securing a promotion from an hourly cook to a salaried floor manager at a fast food restaurant – ineligibility for overtime pay can keep their hourly wage low as they’re expected to work ever-increasing hours. Overtime pay would mean would mean more money in the pockets of working people or valuable time back they could spend with their families and in their communities.
  • Raising the overtime salary threshold would strengthen labor protections for Washingtonians across gender, race, and ethnicity – and women and people of color would experience a particular benefit [3]. People of color and women are too often shut out of higher-wage jobs because of persistent employment discrimination, occupational segregation, and barriers to networks and other resources that connect people with good jobs. Due in part to their overrepresentation in low- and moderate-income positions, women and Latinx workers in particular are estimated to make up a slightly larger relative share of workers who would benefit from an updated overtime rule [4,5]. The chart below depicts the larger relative impact for women.

Click on image to enlarge.

Overtime changes 2018


Now is the time for Governor Inslee to act boldly on behalf of Washington’s workers. No one should be made to work without getting paid for it, and people in our state need a change to help bring their work, lives, and families back into balance.

[1] Economic Policy Institute (EPI) analysis of 2015-2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey Merged Outgoing Rotation Group (CPS MORG) microdata. If the threshold were raised to $1,350/week in 2020, EPI estimates that more than 176,000 workers in Washington would newly qualify for overtime pay and another 229,000 would benefit from strengthened protections. (While the second group of workers is technically eligible for overtime already, they are at particular risk of being misclassified as exempt under the current rule’s EAP duties test because although they do not have executive, administrative, or professional jobs, they are paid a salary and earn above the salary threshold. Raising the salary threshold would make them eligible for overtime by their wages alone.)

[2] Ibid.

[3] EPI analysis estimates that while people of color (as a combined group) comprise approximately 27 percent of the salaried workforce in Washington overall, they represent approximately 30 percent of those who would benefit if the overtime salary threshold were raised to $1,350/week in 2020 (2.5 times the state minimum wage).

[4] EPI analysis estimates that approximately 198,000 male workers and 208,000 female workers in Washington state would benefit if the overtime salary threshold were raised to 2.5 times the minimum wage. CPS MORG data treat sex/gender as a binary category and we therefore do not have an adequate estimate of how this rule change would affect transgender and nonbinary people.

[5] While Latinx workers comprise 7.9 percent of the overall salaried workforce in Washington state, EPI estimates that Latinx workers would represent approximately 11.7 percent of those who would benefit from an overtime salary threshold of 2.5 times the minimum wage.



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Current revenue sources coming up short of what our communities need

Posted by Kelli Smith at Nov 20, 2018 04:16 PM |
Filed under: State Revenue

To fund thriving communities, lawmakers will have to raise new revenue in the next legislative session

Our state’s latest revenue forecast shows that revenue growth on its own is not setting lawmakers up for success as they prepare to write the state’s next budget in the 2019 legislative session. In order to fund the foundations of thriving communities – such as high-quality early learning for all children, a dependable state mental health system, and innovative solutions for housing and homelessness – lawmakers are going to have to bring in new resources. 

While revenues are up marginally ($163 million for the current 2017-19 biennium and $196 million for the 2019-21 biennium), this represents a fraction of a percent of our state’s nearly $46 billion two-year budget, and nowhere near the additional resources lawmakers already know they’ll need to make bold new investments in the next two years. It’s also important to note that the nominal boost in projected tax revenues doesn’t provide a complete view of our growing economy, the rising cost of living in many parts of the state, and the lack of investment in too many communities across the state. The graph below shows that total tax revenue remains mired at Recession levels, after adjustment for the growing economy.


More worrisome: The picture isn’t projected to get any rosier over the next several years. The forecast shows lower levels of growth after the recent property tax revenue increase expires after 2021. 

The good news is that Washington state has the capacity to generate substantial new resources for community investment. Bold, commonsense solutions are within reach. Closing unnecessary tax breaks for corporations and the ultra-wealthy – such as the tax break on capital gains – would bring in much-needed revenue and begin to make our worst-in-the-nation tax code more equitable.

It’s time to move Washington state forward

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Nov 07, 2018 10:30 AM |

With the elections over, lawmakers need to focus on investing in thriving communities 

By Misha Werschkul, executive director

As the final votes are counted from the midterm elections, there will no doubt be plenty of analysis about what the outcomes mean, who’s up and who’s down, and what it all means. But let’s not forget what’s at stake as new lawmakers turn from campaigning to governing: We must create a state in which everyone has the opportunity to not just make ends meet, but to thrive. Now is the time to stay involved to ensure that new and returning lawmakers follow through on enacting policies that build a stronger state where opportunity truly reaches everyone.

It is clear Washingtonians want a people-centered policy agenda that funds good schools, affordable health care, and critical supports for people who are struggling to make ends meet. Legislative candidates like Kitsap County’s Emily Randall, who championed commonsense policies like closing the tax break on capital gains and ensuring that every Washingtonian has quality, affordable health care, are leading or are in close races all across Washington state. When the legislature convenes in January, there will be more legislators in both the House and Senate who campaigned on these kinds of bold ideas for a better Washington – and who are ready to enact a state budget that reflects Washingtonians’ vision for progress.

Similarly across the country, Americans are voting for candidates and policies that will strengthen the health of communities and state economies. For example, early results show voters in Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska expanding Medicaid health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of people in their states. And voters in states like Kansas, Maine, and Wisconsin elected new governors who championed shared prosperity over failed tax cuts and attacks on organized labor. 

There are disappointments, too. The impact of tens of millions of dollars in spending by big oil and soda companies in our state on initiatives 1631 – which would’ve rightly enacted an equitable policy to clean Washington’s air and water – and 1634 – a deceptive measure that aims to protect the soda industry – cannot be understated. The outcomes on these initiatives reinforce that Washingtonians all need to stay engaged in the upcoming legislative session to ensure our state legislators take action on the policies that set our state up for a bright and healthy future and put people above corporate profits. When they get to Olympia, elected officials need to hear from us to make sure they act on our behalf, not the behalf of corporate lobbyists and other special interests.

We know we can move our state forward with sound policy and strategic investments that build strong communities. Lawmakers can start by eliminating wasteful tax breaks that mostly benefit the very wealthiest households, like the one on capital gains. And by enacting and funding a modernized Working Families Tax Rebate to put more money in the pockets of hardworking but low-paid Washingtonians. Legislators can’t do this on their own. They need our advocacy to make bold policies that improve the lives of all Washingtonians, clean up our tax code, and confront the real threats of the climate crisis. Our stories and voices matter now more than ever.

For more analysis about the impact of the midterm elections, sign up for our Budget Matters 2018 Policy Conference on November 13. Gov. Jay Inslee is one of the keynote speakers. And the lunchtime plenary will focus on the midterms and feature Misha Werschkul as well as Jessyn Farrell from Civic Ventures, Aiko Schaefer from Front and Centered, and Erica Williams from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 

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Child savings accounts are a healthy investment

Posted by Jennifer Tran at Oct 31, 2018 07:18 PM |
Filed under: Health, Economic Security

Policymakers can strengthen the well-being of Washingtonians by creating a program that helps kids build savings for the future

In this upcoming legislative session, policymakers have an excellent opportunity to invest in the lifelong health of kids by starting a statewide child savings account (CSA) program. CSAs are long-term savings accounts established for children early on in life that build until they reach adulthood, and offer incentives that can help accumulate savings along the way. These accounts are most commonly used to pay for higher education, and research has shown that even with a modest amount of savings of less than $500, kids with CSAs are three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate from college.

And while the educational benefits of CSAs are most widely cited, CSAs more broadly have a positive impact on mothers, families, and kids that can help set them on a path to greater lifelong health and success. Research over the last decade highlights a range of benefits of these accounts, including lower rates of maternal depression for mothers and improved social-emotional health for kids.

CSAs also have a transformative impact for parents and kids. When children have CSAs, parents are more likely to see their children as college-bound – and that in and of itself can shape how children see themselves and how well they do in school. Given that education is one of the most important determinants of long-term health, reaching kids early through CSAs can have a positive ripple effect across their entire lifetime.

for more on how CSAs can pave the way to health.


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The 2020 Census is more important to Washington than you think

Posted by Jennifer Tran at Oct 25, 2018 07:05 PM |
Filed under: State Budget, Equity

Why an accurate Census is critical to our communities and what you can do about it

Once every ten years, the U.S. government counts every person living in the country. Its goal is “to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.” It is central to our country’s democracy and well-being. The importance of an accurate population count – including accurate data about race, gender, age, and other demographics – cannot be overstated. 

Nonetheless, leaders in the Trump administration have made it clear through their policies that accuracy is not their priority. Because of this, the 2020 Census faces the risk of an especially high under-count, due to insufficient funding, the possible addition of a citizenship question, and a shift from paper surveys to an online platform, to name a few. The stakes are high for Washington state and we must work collectively to ensure every Washingtonian is counted.

Here are three things you can do now to promote an accurate count in Washington:

  1. Advocate for more resources in the state budget for census outreach. Census planning and preparations have been underfunded by Congress over the last decade. As a result, the Census Bureau cancelled key tests, including the planned tests at Colville Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land in Washington state. In order to ensure a more complete and accurate count, Washington state should commit sufficient resources for Census outreach, especially to use in targeting hard-to-count populations.
  2. Form or connect with a local Complete Count Committee (CCC) in your community. A CCC can include government and community leaders from education, business, healthcare, and other community organizations. They serve as trusted voices that will help implement 2020 census awareness campaigns based upon their knowledge of local communities.
  3. Educate and motivate people to participate in the census. Spread the word about why it’s important for our nation, state, and communities – especially the impact it will have on our local schools, health care, emergency response, and other vital community services. Participating will build our collective power and voice as a state.  
Read and share our 2020 Census fact sheet: 

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Families face obstacles to economic security

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Oct 23, 2018 10:20 AM |

Policymakers need to take steps to keep families from falling behind while they're working 

By Julie Watts, deputy director

Washington’s economy is growing, and unemployment is low in many areas throughout the state. That is good news for many people who are looking for good jobs. However, far too many families in our state are falling behind, even when they are working hard to get ahead. This is especially true for families with children.

Our new policy brief, "One step forward two steps back: Why families fall behind while working to get ahead," examines how economic conditions and state policies create obstacles for parents who work to climb the economic ladder and recommends steps policymakers can take to remove them so more families can thrive.

While poverty reduction programs help families work and move up, the report finds that parents are either not getting any of the support they actually need or are getting too little of it. Most parents who qualify for housing assistance, child care, and WorkFirst/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families do not get these benefits. Similarly, key programs like WorkFirst and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) do not provide working parents with enough income to lift them out of poverty.

Click on image to enlarge.


When parents don’t get the support they need, it can actually cost them more money to work. Child care costs or longer and more-costly commutes from affordable-living areas to urban centers can also make it harder for them to keep their jobs. Low-income workers are also more likely to have jobs that require irregular hours, making it even harder to manage child care and other personal arrangements. So just when they are starting to earn more or get more hours, they fall behind. 

Washington policymakers can and should take steps to remove obstacles for parents to work and support their families. They should strengthen and expand public benefits so that they provide families with enough support to meet basic needs and reach more of the families who need them. They should also implement solutions to improve job quality and provide more families with opportunities to get stable, good-paying jobs. 

Click here to read the policy brief and learn about the specific policy solutions available to state lawmakers.


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Thank you for attending Budget Matters

Our Budget Matters 2018 policy conference took place on November 13 at Seattle Center. john a. powell from the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and Gov. Jay Inslee were the keynotes. Watch their presentations and other presentations from the conference on TVW.  

Our policy priorities

Washington state should be a place where all our residents have strong communities, great schools, and the chance for a bright future. Our 2017-2019 Legislative Agenda outlines the priorities we are working to advance.

Testimonies in Olympia

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Watch our 2018 legislative session testimonies on TVW: