A Final Operating Budget!

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Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy

The House and Senate have agreed on an operating budget. As of the time of this post, it is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature. The budget bill, which goes into effect tomorrow July 1, funds affordable housing and homelessness services. The final capital budget is still not released and funds capital construction programs including the Housing Trust Fund. We expect it to be released later today.

The operating budget reflects significant wins that are only achievable from strategic and relentless advocacy from you and strong lawmaker champions. Most significantly, the final budget fully funds the Housing & Essential Needs program (rent assistance for very low-income temporarily disabled adults), fully funds the Aged, Blind & Disabled program (cash assistance for very low-income permanently disabled adults), and includes a nine percent cash grant increase for TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). This is a partial restoration of a larger TANF cut made several years ago.

Below are preliminary budget details. More to come as new operating budget developments and details unfold.

 

Housing & Essential Needs and Aged, Blind & Disabled Programs

  • Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) program is fully funded.
  • Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD) program is fully funded.
  • HEN/ABD incapacity exams were cut by $2.2 million due to current underspend projections.
  • SSI Facilitation Services is fully funded.
  • Medical Care Services is fully funded.

 

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

  • A nine percent ($31 million) TANF cash grant increase.
  • The budget earmarks $5,000,000 of the home security account solely for the Department of Commerce to provide emergency assistance to homeless families in the TANF program.
  • TANF Participation Incentive was a program that was ultimately never implemented. The budget eliminates funding for an additional $55 incentive payment to TANF parents who participate in mandatory WorkFirst activities at least 20 hours per week and meet the requirements of their Individual Responsibility Plans (IRP). Payments were scheduled to begin in the last quarter of fiscal year 2015. However technology changes have not occurred to enable the payment during fiscal year 2015. The incentive payment was to be provided in addition to the regular monthly cash assistance.
  • The budget reduces funding for Workfirst job activities to reflect projected under-expenditures.

 

Other Housing/Homelessness Budget Items

  • The budget creates a “Deed of Trust Act Workgroup”, funded at $20,000 by the Foreclosure Fairness Account. One-time funding is provided to the Department of Commerce to convene a workgroup of interested stakeholders to review the state's Deed of Trust Act contained in Title 61 RCW. The workgroup is tasked to review and make recommendations to ensure that the Act remains a workable system for financial institutions, loan servicing companies, trustee, and borrowers. A report on the review and recommendations is due the Governor and Legislature by December 1, 2015.
  • Washington Youth and Families Fund is funded at $3 million. One million of that is funded from an Affordable Housing for All Account and the rest is funded from a Washington Housing Trust Account.
  • A “Regional Day and Hygiene Center” is funded at $100,000. The budget provides funding to plan and develop a regional approach in southwest King County to provide day and hygiene shelter services to homeless populations. Services would include laundry, showers, restrooms, and resource referrals, but would not include overnight operations. The plan will identify appropriate partners and a service model to meet regional needs; evaluate the establishment of a facility or facilities to provide day and hygiene services; and work with existing providers to expand services to provide day and hygiene shelter services.
  • Washington Telephone Assistance Program (WATAP) and Community Voicemail funding is eliminated. More about WATAP here. More about Community Voicemail here.

 

Funding for Housing/Homelessness Legislation

Extended Foster Care - SSB 5740 (Fain)

  • The budget provides funding for youth who qualify for Extended Foster Care due to being employed for 80 hours or more per month, as authorized under Chapter 122, Laws of 2014 (EHB 2335).

Office of Youth Homelessness  - 2SSB 5404 (O’Ban)

  • The budget funds the Office of Youth Homelessness at $14.431 million.
  • Additionally, crisis residential centers, hope beds, and street youth services provided to runaway and at-risk youth are transferred from the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to the newly created Office of Homeless Prevention and Protection Programs within the Department of Commerce.

Homeless Student Stability Act -  SB 5065 (Frockt)/HB 1682 (Fey) is not funded.

Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) - the HMIS proviso was not included in the budget. More about HMIS here.

 

Stay tuned. We'll have more information about the capital budget as we hear about news from Olympia.

 


 

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