February 16th, 2023 General Membership Meeting

Hello Members, 

Happy February! We can’t believe it either – time flies when you’re hard at work and boy does it show! With important actions being made in our communities and in Olympia, you deserve some time to regroup and connect with fellow Coalition members! 

Our February 2023 General Membership Meeting featured information on:

  • Housing and case management resources for eligible families and foster youth, as presented by Sarah Birekbak of Seattle Housing Authority
  • Legislative Updates and Advocacy Tips from Sara Robbins and Alison Eisinger
  • Updates on the ending of pandemic-era added benefits to SNAP/EBT and Medicaid programs

For a full review, please keep reading or check out our recording below!

Family & Youth Program Updates from Seattle Housing Authority

Sarah Birkebak joined us to hare updates on two housing voucher-based programs offered by Seattle Housing Authority and King County Housing Authority, the Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) Program and the Family Unification Program (FUP).

The Foster Youth to Independence Program (FYI) serves foster youth ages 28-24 who will soon exit the system and are at risk of experiencing homelessness. This program would provide 3 years of subsidized rental assistance via a Housing Choice Voucher along with YMCA case management, and financial assistance with application fees and security deposits.

To apply for FYI, fill out an online self-referral form at https://forms.office.com/r/huK9DghdGG or via their DCYF social worker.

The Family Unification Program (FUP) serves families who need stable housing to be reunified with children if their children have been or are at risk of being placed in out-of-home care due to family housing insecurity. Eligible families would be granted Housing Choice Vouchers for use in the private market.

To apply for FUP, contact your client’s DCYF caseworker. If you know someone you believe is eligible and want more information, you may email Sarah Birkebak from Seattle Housing Authority  – sarah.birkebak[at]seattlehousing[dot]org or Jamoral Bonner from King County Housing Authority  – jamoralb[at]kcha[dot]org.

Legislative Session and Advocacy Updates

Sara Robbins, our policy extraordinaire, gave a recap on our legislative agenda as we pass the one-third mark of the 2023 state legislative session.

As bills have been filtered out and reprioritized in a fast and furious session, we are supporting two promising and impactful bills.

  1. HB 1260 – Improve the ABD Program

The ABD Program (Aged, Blind, and Disabled) is an essential cash benefit that serves vulnerable low-income Washingtonians – read more the ABD program on our blog.

HB 1260 will eliminate the requirement that beneficiaries must pay back their benefits to the state once approved for Social Security disability benefits. This destabilizing and punitive requirement harms those who need some of the greatest support. The Department of Social and Health Services agrees – they have requested legislation to end this requirement so they can better serve their clients.

This bill has just arrived in the House Appropriations Committee – an important fiscal committee that will allow movement to a vote by all members of the Legislature.

Tell members of the Appropriations Committee to vote yes on HB 1260 – TAKE ACTION at this link!

2. SB 5480 – Strengthen the HEN Program

The HEN Program (Housing & Essential Needs) is a housing subsidy program that serves many ABD recipients – read more about the HEN program on our blog.

SB 5480 would improve HEN in a few ways. First, it would ensure that everyone enrolled in HEN gets a minimum of 12 months of rental assistance – currently, months of assistance can be lost due to lags in securing housing. Second, it would allow more cohesive data sharing between government agencies and community organizations that dispense benefits – as it stands, information gaps have resulted in people getting short notice of changes to their housing benefits.

Tell members of the Appropriations Committee to vote yes on SB 5480 – TAKE ACTION at this link!

Alison Eisinger shared some important reminders as a homelessness and housing champion this legislative session.

  • Repeated action is vital! Lawmakers need to gauge what matters to their constituents at all points during the session – it is our collective responsibility to remind them of what truly matters.
  • Don’t forget to email or call your legislators and share your thoughts OFTEN. Don’t know their contact info? You can use the state’s District Finder look-up tool. Don’t know who your legislators are? Call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000.
  • When you email or call, your legislators, personalize your message. Share who you are, where you live, and why this legislation is important to you.

For example, “My name is Maria, I live in the 38th LD, and HB 1260 because my clients need their benefits so they can pay for basic expenses and avoid homelessness!”

The Unwinding of the WA Public Health Emergency – Updates

As many of us know, the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency has officially ended in Washington, which means some hard changes for many of us enrolled in public benefits.

Two benefits that will be affected immediately are SNAP and Medicaid.

SNAP/EBT Food benefits had an emergency allotment added to all food benefits starting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting March 2023, food benefit amounts will decrease, returning to regular benefit allotments based on household size and other eligibility factors. This change does not impact the benefit levels of other programs (i.e. TANF, ABD cash assistance, HEN referrals, or Medicaid). As food prices continue to rise due to inflation, this loss in benefits exacerbates hunger for our most under-resourced community members. 

For clients and advocates seeking to learn new benefits amounts, call the DSHS Customer Service Contact Center at 877-501-2233 and choose the self-service option or log into your Client Benefit Account at WashingtonConnection.org. We will also provide details about other programs that are impacted by the ending of the public health emergency.  

We encourage to share the following flier with anyone you know who gets SNAP benefits – click to download and print!

Medicaid benefits (Apple Health) will be affected starting in April – during the early days of the pandemic, the federal government set a waiver that allowed for all beneficiaries to be automatically re-enrolled. This automatic reenrollment will end as eligibility checks begin again in April.

We at the Coalition recognize that the ending of pandemic-era public benefits does not reflect the real need of many Washingtonians for basic access to food and health care. DSHS estimates that the end of SNAP food allotments will impact upwards of 520,000 Washingtonians. Please stay connected with the Coalition so we can email you future updates and actions for our community members.

Community Updates

  • Looking for a severe weather shelter? Check out the KCRHA blog for updates and hours of operation!
  • Learn about the new Working Families Tax Credit (up to $1200)!

You, your co-workers, and folks you work with may be eligible for this new tax credit for eligible individuals and families. Check out our blog for more information on this brand new cash resource!

Want to spread the word? You can share information on this valuable nex cash resource with your clients, colleagues, family, and friends. Printable flyers are available at the WFTC Coalition website or the Department of Revenue website.

  • Are you helping community members file their taxes? Join the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities for a weekly webinar that covers how to reach under-served communities. Every Thursday until May 5th at 11am PT.

Register for Tax Time Thursdays at bit.ly/Tax-Thursdays23.