This session, state policymakers have an opportunity to lift significant numbers of Washingtonians out of poverty by passing a bill that focuses on improving the well-being of children and their families. House Bill 1482/Senate Bill 5440 would create an intergenerational, results-focused, evidence-based effort to improve the well-being of future generations.
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Far too many children in Washington state are growing up in poverty and households that are financially struggling. They don’t have enough to eat, a consistent place to sleep, or access to a doctor when they are sick or dentist when they have a cavity. Research shows that children who grow up with this kind of economic hardship are at greater risk of experiencing levels of toxic stress so severe it can affect them throughout their lifetime. Such stress impacts their emotional development, their future academic achievement, and the chances they will raise their own children in economic hardship as well.
Intergenerational approaches (also called two-generation approaches) to address poverty focus on supporting parents and children together – rather than supporting them in silos – to help them move out of poverty permanently. They coordinate support for families across five key areas: high-quality early childhood education; higher education and career pathways; asset building; health and well-being; and social capital.
HB 1482 and SB 5440 would:
- Expand the scope of a state legislative-executive task force on WorkFirst (Washington’s temporary cash assistance program that helps families struggling to make ends meet get back on their feet) to include poverty reduction and to focus on the underlying causes of intergenerational poverty.
- Establish a key goal of the task force to reduce the number of people living below 200 percent of the federal poverty line by 50 percent by 2025 in a way that eliminates disparities by race, ethnicity, sex, gender, zip code, immigration status, age, household type, disability status, and more.
- Require the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to develop a five- and 10-year plan to reduce poverty.
- Require DSHS to gather and track relevant national, state, and local data related to poverty and track progress toward poverty reduction goals.
Children are more likely to thrive when their parents are thriving. These bills can help lay the foundation for dramatic poverty reduction in our state so all of Washington’s kids can reach their full potential.