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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 first Substitute Bill replaced 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.

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.

This bill, now on its second substitution (2SSB 5214) has continued to evolve in ways inconsistent with the original goal of expanding access that we supported. We are no longer supporting this bill. Instead, we are directing our efforts toward a TANF grant increase in the Operating Budget.

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