January 2023 General Membership Meeting Recap

Happy New Year, Member

We hope your 2022 ended with rest and celebration, because 2023 is off to a busy start!

As we dive in to the 2023 legislative session, we are here to prep you with a few takeaways:

  • Information from Sara Robbins of The Coalition on our legislative focus to improve ABD (Aged, Blind, and Disabled) and HEN (Housing & Essential Needs) programs to better serve disabled beneficiaries
  • Helpful hints form Alison Eisinger of the Coalition on how to Sign in Pro like a Pro and other legislative advocacy tips
  • An introduction from Anthony Blankenship of Civil Survival on legislation that increases voting access for people who are currently in jail
  • An update on the King County Regional Homelessness Authority’s 5 Year Plan

Check out our meeting recording or keep reading for more!

But first, a Few Updates from The Coalition!

  • We are a member-based Coalition that works to mobilize our community of unhoused neighbors and their advocates – through targeted education, capacity building, and resource sharing. AND we couldn’t do it without you – learn about how you can become a member today on our website. Questions? Email jody{at]homelessinfo[dot]org.
  • 2023 has LOTS of elections, 4 to be exact – special elections in February and April, in addition to the Primary and General Elections in August and November. Stay tuned for more info about ballot measures that affect our community members. In the meantime, learn more about who can vote and how!
  • The Coalition has a slew of new provider trainings for you! In addition to our repeated trainings on ABD/HEN, TANF/WorkFirst, and Medicaid/Medicare, we are offering a special series that trains on accessing SSI/SSDI benefits, information on the new Working Families Tax Credit, and the need for long-term care! These trainings are ideal for new and seasoned providers alike, with public benefits attorneys sharing information about eligibility, program processes, and how to contest denials and terminations. Check out our Training and Professional Development page for registration links and stay tuned for more info on additional trainings for new and experienced providers!

Coalition Legislative Priorities

Sara Robbins gave a great overview of our legislative priorities – namely that we are focused on enhancing public benefits program that our unhoused community is entitled to.

Specifically, The Coalition aims to pass legislation to reform the ABD (Aged, Blind, or Disabled) and HEN (Housing and Essential Needs) programs. ABD and HEN are programs designed to serve low-income people with disabilities who are applying for SSI or SSDI, providing time-limited benefits such as cash, housing, transportation, and basic needs support. A significant portion of our members serve clients accessing ABD and HEN, which means this legislation affects many of us directly!

For more information on ABD and HEN, check out this blog post.

We at the Coalition believe Public Benefits are Key for people experiencing homelessness to build stability!

The Coalition is supporting three bills: SB 5480, SB 5413, and HB 1260. These bills aim to reform ABD and HEN in a few ways:

  • HEN recipients would have 12 months of benefits at the time they receive their benefit, rather than when DSHS marks them as eligible. This would ensure that recipients would have the subsidy for all 12 months if there is a wait before rental assistance starts – waits may be due to recipients taking some time to find housing or get connected with a HEN provider.
  • DSHS, the Department of Commerce, and HEN providers would have improved communication. This would help to ensure accurate information sharing, reducing wait times and better serving HEN recipients.
  • ABD recipients would not have repay benefits. Historically, ABD recipients are required to repay ABD cash benefits once approved for SSI if they receive a back payment from SSA. Low-income and disabled community members need this cash and cannot afford to repay the state.

Keep an eye on your inbox for a Coalition Action Alert to pass these bills!

How to Sign in PRO like a pro!

Alison Eisinger, our Coalition’s fiercest advocate, walked us through some important tips on legislative advocacy.

Being remote during the legislative session has its benefits, one of which being we can show our support and opposition for bills from the comfort of our own homes! Legislators know who shares their position on legislation, and it can influence how legislators vote!

Visit leg.wa.gov to submit online testimony on bills that impact our uhoused neighbors!

There are two easy ways to share your position on any bill in the legislative session:

  • 1) Online
    • Visit leg.wa.gov – bookmark this!
    • From the home page, click “participate in legislative process
    • ”Click ”share your position”
    • Pick details of the committee where the bill will be heard (this information is found on the bill information page (see link for example)
    • Pick if the bill is in the House (HB) or Senate (SB)Select the committeeSelect the date and timeCheck the bill you’d like to comment on
    • Check ”I would like my position noted for the legislative record”
    • Make sure to sign in Pro or Con and include your name, personal email, city, state, zip code, phone, and select “I am not a robot” to submit,
  • 2) Via Legislative hotline
    • Call 1-800-562-6000
    • Talk to a human person to share your thoughts on any bill
      • You don’t need to know your LD or legislator names – they’ll look up your district for you!
      • The operator will note your position and also take brief comments

Hang in there! It’s a long session and we have a lot to do to advocate for our unhoused community members. It’s important that we advocate as much as possible as many times as possible – remember that it may be necessary to comment or testify on the same bill multiple times to persuade legislators! Collectively, we can be more effective than a handful of paid lobbyists!

Allowing Jail Voting in Washington

Anthony Blankenship, an avid voting rights advocate, joined from Civil Survival Project (formerly from ALCU WA), to share important information on a new voting rights bill for jailed community members.

Contrary to popular belief, people who are confined in jail and not under felony convictions have the right to vote in Washington state. However, due to long-held bias against people involved in the criminal justice system, it can be difficult for jailed community members to fully participate in our democracy.

The Coalition fully supports the voting rights of jailed community members for a few reasons:

  1. Voting suppression is an equity issue – those in jails are disproportionately BIPOC and disproportionately unhoused – these community members are entitled the right to vote as much as anyone else!
  2. Access to voting in jails means we can build a larger voting block of system reformists – people who have been incarcerated are more likely to be affected by a number of different systems, such as public benefits systems, criminal justice systems, housing systems, and we want to empower people to make real systems change!

HB 1174 is a bill that would increase access to voting for those who are in jail. Specifically, it would require county auditor offices and jails to coordinate so that voting officials can share voting information, register people to vote, and deliver their ballots. Civil Survival Project reports that many people in jail want to vote, however do not because they think they can’t or do not have access to a ballot. In a 2022 pilot program, more than 150 people in Pierce County Jail registered to vote when given the opportunity. This bill would likely register many people to vote and encourage civic engagement for those who have been misserved by the system.

Have more questions? Email Anthony at Anthony.blankenship[at]civilsurvival[dot]org.

KCRHA 5-year plan

King County Regional Homelessness Authority has released a draft of the long-awaited 5-Year Plan!

Visit the KCRHA website to view the full 133-page report or the more palatable 5-page executive summary.

You can also deliver comment to the KCRHA by taking their feedback survey (available until Feb. 8th) or via Zoom at the next Implementation Board meeting on Jan. 25th at 2pm.

Want to share your thoughts with the Coalition? Email alison{at]homelessinfo[dot]org, sara[at]homelessinfo[dot]org or jody[at]homelessinfo[dot]org.

Until next time!