Key among the positive changes: Since 2008, the number of children growing up without the health coverage they need to see a doctor when they’re sick has improved by 38 percent. What’s at work is the state’s Cover All Kids law, which passed in 2007 and created affordable health coverage called Apple Health for Kids. The Affordable Care Act’s 2014 creation of a flexible market for individual plans has also propelled child coverage in Washington to one of the nation’s highest.
Yet the child poverty rate is nearly 30 percent higher than it was in 2008, with an additional 59,000 children growing up below the federal poverty level. Poverty can impede children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development and contribute to poor health. And poverty disproportionately harms kids and families in communities of color, who face other barriers to economic security in the form of an educational opportunity gap and a high cost burden for housing, food, and other basic needs. These stressors are caused by, and contribute to, the structural racism faced by families of color. This undermines progress for children and the state as a whole.
The two organizations that make up KIDS COUNT in Washington – the Washington State Budget & Policy Center and the Children’s Alliance – support two-generation approaches to creating economic security for both children and their parents. One 2016 proposal that would help both kids and families is Initiative 1433, the $13.50 minimum wage initiative now gathering signatures for the state’s November ballot. It would raise the take-home pay for the working parents of thousands of Washington children. And it would also provide up to seven days of paid sick and safe leave per year, helping Washington families by ensuring that workers don’t lose wages when they need to take care of themselves or their children when they’re sick.
The implementation of a higher minimum wage would be an important step toward lifting more Washington kids out of poverty. And, as noted in the 2016 Data Book, it is one of many policy solutions needed to improve the well-being of future generations.
The Annie E. 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 safer and healthier places to live, work, and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. Visit datacenter.kidscount.org for the most recent national, state, and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being.