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Economic Assistance Programs

Originally, Senate Bill 5214 sought to move people out of poverty and into self-sufficiency by expanding access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) with changes that would give survivors greater access and fewer barriers to safety net cash assistance. WSCADV’s Traci Underwood testified in support of this bill in front of the Senate Committee on Human Services, Reentry, & Rehabilitation on January 26, 2021.

The Substitute Bill replaces the original components of the bill with just one provision to ‘stop the clock’ on the 60-month time limit during months when the statewide average unemployment rate is 7% or greater. This fails to address the racist impacts of current time limit policy for Black and Indigenous families, would be difficult for participants to track, and uses an indicator (the average unemployment rate) that isn’t reflective of the economic reality for families with low incomes across our state.

We are following the lead of our partners, the Statewide Poverty Action Network and the Budget & Policy Center, in remaining supportive of the bill’s intent to strengthen cash assistance for families with the lowest incomes and assessing the degree to which this vehicle could be strengthened as it moves throughout the legislative process. WSCADV submitted written testimony to the Senate Ways & Means Committee on February 17, 2021, emphasizing the need to address the racist impacts of current TANF time limit policy, expand access for families with the greatest barriers to work and well-being, and strengthen the grant amount so that families can meet their basic needs.

The original bill included policy changes that would address racial inequities built into the system by extending time limits for those who are participating in the program, but there is a significant possibility that this bill would deepen the inequities for families of color, specifically Black, Indigenous, Latin-x, and some Asian/Pacific Islander families because the state average unemployment rate masks deep disparities in race, gender, and geographic region.

Traci Underwood, WSCADV’s Economic Justice Project Coordinator testimony on substitute bill

If a survivor is participating in their TANF plan, whether or not they have disclosed domestic violence to their case worker, this bill will ensure that they can continue to work their safety plans to create a stable life for themselves and their children without losing the cash assistance that is keeping them afloat.

Traci Underwood, WSCADV’s Economic Justice Project Coordinator testimony on original bill