And it’s a wrap (but not really). The 2015 Regular Legislative Session ended on Friday 4/24, but the House and Senate have yet to agree upon a budget, so a special session will start on Wednesday, 4/29.
We are happy that Extended Foster Care, the YEAR Act, the Homeless Youth Act, and the King County Bonding for Affordable Housing all passed! Unfortunately a number of our bills did not pass, as happens each session since only a limited number of bills can even be brought to vote. These bills will be re-worked in the break until the 2016 legislative session and be reborn and hopefully pass in 2016. Your phone calls, postcard signing, and advocacy have been significant and continue to be vital moving forward in the Budget process.
Budgets from the House and Senate were both released in mid-April. See below for more details. The House and Senate will have to work together to agree upon a balanced budget. We are glad the House and the Governor both provided for revenue in their budgets, however the Senate did not. We encourage you to ask your legislators to “Please ensure the final budget raises new revenue and invests at least $110 million in affordable housing.”
Please check out our tracker below and note the status of bills you have been tracking. Keep on making calls, fill out and send in a new postcard, and staying tuned for action alerts – Sign up for Coalition Action Alerts here!
Take 5: call the Legislative Hotline to leave a message for your representatives and let them know what bills you support and also urge them to invest $100 Million in the Housing Trust Fund. These bills and budget asks are crucial to helping people experiencing homelessness in our community. Hotline Number: 1-800-562-6000 – real (and kind) people answer the phone! Hotline Hours: Monday-Friday 8am-8pm
Here are some budget ask messages from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance to use while making your weekly call to your two representatives and senator in Olympia:
- Please ensure the final budgets passed by the legislature match the House’s proposed operating and capital budgets.
- Please ensure the final budget raises new revenue and invests at least $110 million in affordable housing.
- Please also fund the Medicaid permanent supportive housing services benefit.
- And thank you for protecting vital safety net programs like HEN, ABD, and SSI Facilitation.
KEY LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES updated 4/28/2015:
Please use this table to see the progress of bills that are part of our Legislative Priorities throughout the 2015 Legislative Session. For further information about bills and links to one-pagers please scroll below the table. Note that many bills are in both the Senate (SB) and House (HB) and therefore have their own rows in the table. Feel free to sort!
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KEY BUDGET PRIORITIES updated 4/28/2015:
- State Housing Trust Fund:
- Invest $100 million to create good homes and local jobs through our State Housing Trust Fund
- Governor’s Budget: $100 million for affordable housing
- House Budget: $110.2 million for affordable housing
- Senate Budget: $87.8 million for affordable housing – ask Senators to match the house investment of $110.2 million
- Housing & Essential Needs (HEN), Aged, Blind, & Disabled (ABD) and SSI Facilitation
- PROTECT Crucial Programs & Prevent Homelessness for disabled and elderly Washingtonians: Maintain Housing & Essential Needs (HEN), Aged, Blind, & Disabled (ABD) and SSI Facilitation at current funding levels. Seniors and people with disabilities must be able to meet their basic needs and access recovery resources.
- In all three budgets (Governor, House, Senate), HEN/ABD/SSI Facilitation funding was maintained – not cut, but also not increased.
- RESTORE the 15% cut to Families receiving TANF:
- Washington’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) system provides struggling families with children a modest cash grant to help meet their basic needs, such as housing, clothing, and health items. Many in our communities rely on this vital program to put food on their tables and provide for their children.
- During the 2011 Legislative Session, the TANF cash grant was reduced by 15%. It is high time to take action and RESTORE the 15% cut from 2011. This will increase the grant for a family of 3 from $478 to $562, providing critical resources to our poorest families.
- Columbia Legal Services TANF information
- Governor’s budget did not restore or cut the grant.
- House Budget: Did not restore the grant, did not cut either. Added $25 million for other important TANF programs.
- Senate Budget: cuts TANF by $50 million, does not restore the 15% cut from 2011.
- REVENUE (Thank you to the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance for details about revenue in the budgets!)
- Legislators must include new revenue, not more cuts, in the budget! Over the past four years, the legislature has cut over $10.5 billion, but has increased revenue by less than $1 billion. As the state House & Senate work to balance the budget for the next two years, programs and services that support the most vulnerable members of our communities are again on the chopping block. Since the Great Recession hit in 2008, we have cut more services than at any time in our state’s history. These cuts damage our state’s ability to create jobs and recover from the recession, and they balance the budget on the backs of people who already struggle the most.
- Governor’s Budget: Raises about $1.4 billion in new revenues. His cap & trade plan allocates money to the Housing Trust Fund.
- House Budget: Raises about $1.5 billion in new revenues. While the House budget doesn’t include the Governor’s cap & trade plan, it it does raise new revenues from a Capital Gains Tax, closes tax loopholes, and expands the B&O tax to professional services. Check out the Washington State Budget & Policy Center for details.
- Senate Budget: Does not raise new revenue. Rather the budget achieves savings from cuts to programs, cuts to state worker compensation, LEAN management savings, and Commerce & DSHS departments, etc. Commerce is subject to cuts, although not necessarily to the department that oversees our programs.
- Medicaid Permanent Supportive Housing Services
- With a Medicaid Supportive Housing Services Benefit, supportive housing providers could bill Medicaid for supportive services provided to eligible residents. This would allow more chronically homeless people to access services, improve the integration of behavioral and health care, and would help individuals with severe and chronic health issues stay off the street and live in a healthy home.
- Governor’s Budget: Not funded
- House Budget: $100,000 for Department of Social and Health Services staff costs to implement waiver
- Senate Budget: Not funded
- Homeless Youth Act Funding
- House Budget: Fully Funds HYA at $784,000
- Senate Budget: Appears to provide more funding, analysis needed
- Extended Foster Care Funding
- House Budget: Funded!
- Senate Budget: Funded!
- Homeless Student Stability Act Funding
- The Homeless Student Stability Act passed out of the House, but did not pass in the Senate. However, the House budget gave $2 million of funding to implement the act. Call on your Senators to change their budget to include funding for HSSA!
- House Budget: $2 million for Homeless Student Stability Act
- Senate Budget: not funded
Bills Passed in 2015 Legislative Session:
- PREVENT Youth Homelessness:
- Pass the Youth Equality and Reintegration (YEAR) Act (HB 1481 / SB 5564), allowing youth who made non-violent mistakes to access housing and employment;
- Extend Foster Care (HB 1735 / SB 5740) for youth with significant medical conditions so that these individuals have a safe place to stay while transitioning to adulthood;
- Pass the Homeless Youth Act (HB 1436 / SB 5404). Successfully addressing youth homelessness ensures that homeless youth and young adults in our state have the support they need to thrive and avoid more costly outcomes in the criminal justice system, human trafficking, long-term dependence on public benefits, or chronic adult homelessness.
- King County Bonding Authority for Affordable Housing
- This bill will clarify language for existing legislation from 2011 that authorized King County to use a portion of lodging tax revenues to develop housing for working families. Clarified language will cause building to begin much sooner than 2021 (when legislation currently says funds will be available).
- TAKE ACTION NOW – fill out this email from the Housing Development Consortium
- Tell your legislators that “We need affordable housing now!”
- HB 1223 (Springer) Status: PASSED!
BILLS that did not pass in 2015 :/ – They will come up again and need advocacy in 2016!
ENSURE a fairer system for Tenants and Landlords:
- Fair Tenant Screening Act (SB 5123 / HB 1257):
- Finding a new home or place to rent is hard and usually people apply for more than one place. Currently the average renter will have to pay for three or more tenant screening reports during this process. The Fair Tenant Screening Act would create the a portable tenant screening report process where a renter could buy (one time) a standard online tenant screening report and provide access to the report to multiple landlords.Pass the Fair Tenant Screening Act to make the tenant screening process more affordable and fair for both tenants and landlords.
- SB 5123 (Frockt) Status: DEAD
HB 1257 (Walkinshaw) Status: DEAD
- Truth in Eviction reporting (SB 5376 / HB 1460)
- Currently, a tenant can be caught in a landlord’s foreclosure, win an appeal, be wrongfully named, settle to the landlord’s satisfaction, or not be evicted. Despite this, their names still appear with an eviction on their report, which usually results in landlords being reluctant to take them as tenants. Tenant screening reports should only name evictions when the tenant has actually been evicted.
- SB 5376 (Habib) Status: DEAD
HB 1460 (Robinson) Status: DEAD
- Source of Income Discrimination Protection bill (SB 5378 / HB 1565)
- This legislation would prohibit discrimination in housing based on participation in government assistance programs. Many rental ads now list “not accepting Section 8,” referring to those receiving assistance with their rent. These tenants should be subject to screening checks just like any other tenant, but Section 8 status alone is no reason to prevent a prospective tenant from even applying.
- SB 5378 (Kohl-Welles) Status: DEAD
HB 1565 (Ormsby) Status: DEAD
- Homeless Student Stability Act (HB 1682 / SB 5065)
- SUPPORT Homeless Students: Pass the Homeless Student Stability Act
- Invests in stability for homeless students using a two-pronged approach: 1) provides funding for school districts to serve homeless students. School funding is designed to match the federal dollars received under McKinney-Vento; 2) creates a grant program serving up to 15 school districts interested in creating school-housing partnerships that will directly increase housing stability for homeless students and families. Funds can be used for housing vouchers, rapid rehousing, host homes, or other programs based on local need and community preference. Partnerships will be data-driven and targeted to improve stability and academic performance of homeless students.
- Increase efficiency in child care reporting (SB 5098)
- This legislation would streamline a family’s reporting requirements regarding changes to family’s circumstance in order to ensure stability and quality of care for children from low-income households.
- SB 5098 (Billing) Status: DEAD
Thank you for calling your legislators and showing your support for these legislative priorities! Please check our blog for timely updates, sign up for Action Alerts on our website, and visit the websites of these great state level advocacy organizations who put together the one-pagers we use: Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, Columbia Legal Services, The Mockingbird Society. Statewide Poverty Action Network. Happy Advocating!