Schmudget Blog


Brief: Child savings accounts advance economic opportunities for kids and families

Posted by Jennifer Tran at Jul 02, 2018 10:10 AM |
By Hana Jang, 2017-18 Narver policy fellow, and Jennifer Tran, senior policy analyst


In an inclusive economy, everyone – including the youngest among us – would have the means to have a lifetime of economic security. Yet this is not the case for many children and families in Washington state. Financial security and stability remain out of reach for many families, especially for families of color. Thirty percent of all households and 50 percent of households headed by people of color do not have enough savings to cover basic expenses for three months in the case of a sudden job loss, medical emergency, or another financial crisis – let alone enough resources to save for their own future and the future of their kids.

Our new brief, “Building Assets for Washington State’s Future” (the second in the Progress in Washington series), focuses on the need to create 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. By creating such a program, policymakers have the opportunity to give kids the opportunity for lifelong prosperity. CSA programs structured to advance equity can set kids up for lifelong economic success, particularly for kids of color in families who may face additional barriers to economic opportunity.

CSA

Whether they are set up at birth, kindergarten, or middle school, CSAs can have a big impact on a child’s life. Research shows that low- and moderate-income children with college savings are significantly more likely to go to college and graduate than those with no college savings. But the benefits of CSAs are not just limited to children’s post-secondary education opportunities. These accounts demonstrate the potential for parents and caregivers, together with children, to create a shared culture around savings. 

Washington’s elected leaders can give kids a strong financial foundation by developing a statewide CSA program. There are certainly logistics to work out to determine how best to establish a CSA program that reaches the needs of every child, but now is the time for big thinkers to come together and strategize about what that could look like in our state.

Our brief highlights the key elements of a CSA program that can advance equity and help build an inclusive economy for Washington state. Features that remove barriers to participation and encourage families to save – such as automatically enrolling every child, providing an initial deposit to kick start savings, and including additional incentives for children from families with low- and moderate-incomes – can help ensure all children from Washington state have the tools for lifelong financial security and stability.

Our state’s well-being is tied to the health and prosperity of kids and families. Policymakers who pursue the creation of CSAs can help our state thrive into the future and invest in our shared economic prosperity.

Building Assets for Washington State’s Future” is the second publication in our Progress in Washington 2018  series (see the first publication, “Building an Inclusive Economy,” here). This series examines ways our state can reach the goal of an inclusive Washington state economy with shared prosperity for everyone.


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U.S. Supreme Court decision puts Washington’s economic well-being at risk

Statement from Washington State Budget & Policy Center Executive Director Misha Werschkul 
 
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees will have a negative impact on all of us who rely on the critical public services that public sector employees deliver in communities across the state. And it will especially hurt the employees themselves – hundreds of thousands of firefighters, teachers, park rangers, nurses, and other public sector workers.


Since the 1970s, the U.S. economy has become increasingly out of balance, with gains in income concentrating among the very wealthiest, while low- and middle-wage workers have seen stagnating or declining incomes. In Washington state, the top 1 percent has an average income 22 times higher than the average income of the entire bottom 99 percent (see our "Building an Inclusive Economy" report for more details). A key driver of increased wage inequality is declining union membership, which has weakened the bargaining power of working households, especially in private sector jobs.   

Washington state has one of the highest rates of union membership in the country. A majority of state and local government employees are currently represented by unions, and these unions have led the way on efforts to reduce poverty, promote equity, and improve public services – both through the collective bargaining process and through public policy advocacy. Public sector unions have been key partners in efforts to raise the statewide minimum wage, provide paid family and medical leave to all workers, and make sure all children have access to a great public education.

This Supreme Court decision goes far beyond an attack on public sector workers. It is a setback for efforts to promote shared prosperity in Washington state and across the country. Now it is time for our state and local elected leaders to respond with policies that strengthen the economic well-being of Washington's working people and communities. They must enact and enforce stronger labor standards in our state, implement and modernize the Working Families Tax Rebate, protect workers' rights to organize, and ensure sufficient funding for vital public services.

For more details on the importance of public sector unions, read this Washington Post article by economist Jared Bernstein: "Bend the trend: Reviving unionization in America." 

KIDS COUNT: Inaccurate census data could jeopardize progress for Washington’s kids

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Jun 27, 2018 09:50 AM |
 
Nearly 1 in 6 Washington children under age 5 live in neighborhoods where there’s a high risk that the U.S. census will fail to count them accurately, says a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. An inaccurate 2020 census will erode essential public services for children in Washington and across the country, according to the 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book released today.


Funding for essential health care, early education and K-12 learning, and other basic services depend on an accurate count of our communities. In Washington state, more than $3 billion in federal dollars are allocated yearly to Medicaid, food assistance, Head Start and other programs that help families meet basic needs. 

KIDS COUNT 2018 Data Book

Low-income children, children of color and children living in immigrant households are at greatest risk of being undercounted. The census may also miss children growing up in rural areas, tribal lands or in urban neighborhoods where census workers may have a hard time reaching households.

Further, the Trump administration’s proposed addition of an unnecessary question about citizenship will discourage countless others from filling out the 2020 census form. People without documentation and their families will be afraid that participation will result in having their lives, their families or their communities torn apart by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

“To give kids the full and equal opportunities to grow and thrive so they can be counted on in the future, we need to count them now,” said Paola Maranan, executive director of the Children’s Alliance. “Without robust efforts to get an accurate 2020 census, we place our shared future in jeopardy.”

In Washington state, an estimated 67,000 of the state’s 447,000 children under age 5 live in census tracts where households responded poorly by mail to the 2010 census—and may do so again in 2020. 

The Data Book notes that the threat of greater inaccuracies in the census coincides with the child population passing a landmark: in 2020, most of the U.S. population aged 18 and under will be of color.

“Low-income children, children of color and kids living in immigrant families stand to be disproportionately undercounted, while also having the most to lose as vital programs are sapped of public investment,” said Misha Werschkul, executive director of the Washington State Budget & Policy Center.

The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks each state across four domains of child well-being: health; education; economic well-being; and family and community.

Washington state, which ranked 15th among the 50 states overall, ranked in the top 5 for child health. The percentage of uninsured Washington children fell by half from 2010 to 2016, from 6 to 3 percent. This progress is partially due to state-level efforts to connect more children with affordable, preventive health care through Apple Health for Kids. Apple Health for Kids is supported by federal investments in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, with funding allocations that depend on population estimates derived from the census.

Our state has the greatest room for improvement in the education domain, where it ranks 26th. One in 5 students don’t graduate on time, and almost 60 percent of three- and four-year-olds are not enrolled in preschool.

KIDS COUNT in Washington recommends that two things about the flawed census be changed. First, federal officials need to allocate sufficient funds to support a more accurate census in which as many people as possible can be counted. Second, the census form should be true to the purpose of the count that was originally stipulated in the U.S. Constitution: to count all people who live within U.S. borders. Questions that ask about citizenship will undermine participation—and they are simply not required.

Read the full 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book. And read the KIDS COUNT Washington state 2018 profile 

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Media Contacts: 

Melinda Young-Flynn, melinday(at)budgetandpolicy(dot)org, (206) 262-0973, x223
Adam Hyla E. Holdorf, adam(at)childrensalliance(dot)org, (206) 324-0340 ext. 18

About KIDS COUNT in Washington
KIDS COUNT in Washington is a partnership of the Children’s Alliance and the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, made possible by support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It pursues measurable improvements in child outcomes through equitable public policy measures. For more information, visit www.kidscountwa.org

About the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into healthier places to live, work and grow. Visit datacenter.kidscount.org for the most recent national, state, and local data on child well-being from the Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT Data Center. 

 

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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Five essential truths about our state tax code

We’re hearing a lot of conversations these days about a topic previously off the table at most social gatherings: our state’s tax code. As an organization that advocates for the important role that taxpayers’ investments play in the well-being of our state, we welcome the interest in this topic of conversation. 

Unfortunately, many myths permeate the public discourse about our state tax code. At the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, we are committed to making sure you know the truth about that tax code – and the real solutions that must be enacted in Olympia to make it work for everyone. Because it is a tax code that doesn’t live up to our values. It isn’t set up to invest in our communities in the short and long term. And it is set up to favor corporations, special interests, and the ultra-wealthy over everyday Washingtonians. As a result, the tax code creates additional barriers to economic opportunity for many communities of color and people with low incomes. 

Here’s the truth about the ways our tax code is failing our state:

1. Yes, Washington state really does have the worst tax code in the nation for working people. Specifically, those with the lowest incomes pay almost 17 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes, while those in the top 1 percent pay less than 3 percent. That’s completely upside down. And this takes a particularly heavy toll on many people of color in our state who have low incomes as a result of generations of systemic racism. 

2. The tax code is too dependent on regressive sources of revenue that aren’t growing with our modern economy. Our tax code relies way too much on the super regressive sales tax. Further, by mostly taxing goods (like household necessities and toiletries) and not high-end services (like many spa services and financial advising services), the tax code also misses out on a major opportunity for growing revenue (see chart below) that primarily comes from higher-income people who already get better deals in the tax code. 
 
Goods vs services 2017

3. The property tax system doesn’t support the needs of people with middle and low incomes. Although our state’s property taxes are an important source of revenue for our schools and community services, they are structured in a way that makes homeowners with middle and low incomes shoulder too much responsibility to support community needs – like schools and public safety. Property owners often pass the cost of increased taxes onto renters through higher rents. Without targeted safeguards or rebates in place to offset some of these taxes for homeowners and renters who cannot afford them, the system stays broken. 

4. Our state has hundreds of harmful and unnecessary tax breaks on the books for corporations and special interests. Those tax breaks are funneling money away from investments that serve all our communities, like our schools, our parks, and our public transportation systems.

5. Overall, our tax code is simply not providing reliable revenue to pay for critical services. As of 2018, our state revenues are still well below the levels from before the Recession, when adjusted for economic growth (see chart below). In a growing state with a strong economy, that is simply unacceptable – especially given the challenges we face with issues like homelessness and unaffordability in our communities. 

Revenue trend 2018

But there are solutions.

We’ve laid out commonsense solutions to these problems. To start turning the tax code right-side up and creating new revenue, our state legislators should:

These policies would also importantly take some steps to help undo some of the racial inequities in our tax code. For example, if the WFTR were enacted, it would strengthen the economic security of many families of color with low incomes throughout our state. And the largest rebates would go to Latinx people, Asians or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, and American Indians/Alaska Natives.

In the work to clean up our state’s tax code, let’s make sure that accurate information is drowning out the myths and half-truths. With a real understanding of what we want our tax code to look like, we can work to make sure it is equitable and invests in all of us. 

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Brief: Washington state must ensure kids are on the path to a healthy life

Posted by Jennifer Tran at Apr 11, 2018 12:55 PM |
Filed under: Kids Count, Health Care, Equity

Washington state has made tremendous gains in recent years to make sure more kids and families have greater access to health insurance. In 2007, the Washington State Legislature passed the Cover All Kids law, creating affordable, comprehensive Apple Health for Kids coverage. Since then, the number of Washington children without health coverage has dropped to its lowest level on record. Yet despite reaching historically high rates of insurance coverage, racial gaps in health outcomes persist and must be addressed.

HealthyStartPhoto

For KIDS COUNT in Washington’s new “Getting All Kids Off to a Healthy Start” brief (a part of the State of Washington’s Kids 2018 series), we asked local health leader Michelle Sarju, “What would it take to make sure young kids have a healthy start?” She noted that it begins with the quality of care an expectant mother receives – because women with low incomes experience the worst features of our public systems, which includes our health care system. Mistreatment at the hands of medical providers is a disincentive to seek further care, says Sarju. “Who wants to show up to a doctor’s appointment to be treated poorly?”

Even when socioeconomic differences are erased, race still matters. Black women are three times as likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes as white women, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “For African American and Native American women, midwifery and doula care are two of several evidence-based strategies for improving maternal-child health outcomes,” says Sarju. “If you have a well-trained and licensed provider, you have much better outcomes. Midwives and doulas are strategic resources.”

In Washington state, women of color have a greater likelihood of dying from pregnancy-related causes. And infants of color – particularly Black, American Indian, and Pacific Islander babies –experience higher rates of infant mortality and preterm births and are more likely to be born at a lower birthweight.

In order to make systemic improvements to address these poor outcomes, decision makers must thoroughly assess quality of care for women and families of color. Policymakers, community health leaders, health care practitioners, and other individuals who influence health care and public health systems should also take other necessary steps to implement the following recommendations to help improve health outcomes for mothers and young children:

  • Identify interventions to address the adverse effects of structural and institutional racism on health outcomes;
  • Promote culturally relevant forms of health care, such as midwifery; and
  • Prioritize socioeconomic supports that advance the well-being of families, including Apple Health coverage, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, two-generation approaches to parent-child support like home visiting, and the full implementation of the state’s new paid sick and family leave laws.

Getting All Kids Off to a Healthy Start” is the second release in the State of Washington’s Kids 2018 series. See the first in our series here.

KCinWA

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