Statement on State Senate Budget Proposal
March 22, 2017
Statement on State Senate Budget Proposal from Rachael Myers, Executive Director of Washington Low Income Housing Alliance
Olympia, Wa - “Washington state is experiencing a crisis of homelessness, and the state Senate yesterday introduced an operating budget that will exacerbate this crisis rather than solve it. This is not the kind of budget you’d expect to see when each night more than 20,000 people are struggling with homelessness in our state, and many others are living just one pay check away from not being able to pay their rent or mortgage.
“We are alarmed at the lengths the Senate is willing to go to raise as little revenue as possible. This budget guts and totally eliminates programs designed to save lives and prevent homelessness.
“At a time when there is an increased likelihood of massive funding cuts at the federal level, we as a state cannot afford to rip larger holes in our safety-net. We urge the Senate to take another look at this budget, and we urge the House to propose a budget more in-line with the values of Washington state. Everyone in Washington should have the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home – but that will never be a reality unless the state invests in homelessness prevention and affordable homes.”
The state Senate budget will increase homelessness. Specifically because it:
- Eliminates the Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) rent support program. This will impact over 8,000 disabled, extremely low-income households across the state in the next budget year alone. The elimination of this program will likely push all of those households into homelessness. Additionally, the elimination of this program impacts the disabled immigrants receiving Medical Care Services administratively through the HEN program. Contrary to what the budget writers stated in their press conference, this cut of $60 million dollars is not mitigated by the new $7.5 million program created in the budget, which would serve a different population from the disabled, single adults, and young adults primarily served by HEN.
- Prohibits the State Health Care Authority from moving forward with the Medicaid Innovation Demonstration, risking approximately $1.5 billion in federal funds that would otherwise fund programs that serve extremely vulnerable, disabled and low-income households, including people with a physical or mental health disability who are experiencing long-term homelessness.
- Funds many homelessness programs out of existing resources rather than the general fund, resulting in an overall cut of more than $25 million to affordable housing and homelessness programs. These cuts will be significantly compounded if the pending sunset in 2019 of over 60% of state homelessness dollars is not eliminated.
- Transfers funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to higher education, instead of serving the basic needs of very low-income families with dependent children. Currently, a minimum of 4,195 TANF households are experiencing homelessness. TANF funds should stay with TANF families to address their housing and other basic needs.
- Adds a time limit to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled program, which will eliminate income supports for the extremely low-income, disabled population served by this program. This will force more people into homelessness, including many with a behavioral health disability, which will further compound our state’s mental health and homelessness crisis.
- Eliminates funding in the Department of Commerce’s budget for the homeless student stability act, a program aimed at addressing the housing and other basic needs of homeless students and their families. In the 2015-16 school year, 39,671 students were identified as experiencing homelessness or extreme housing insecurity. Students facing these conditions have a significantly lower graduation rate of just 53.2 percent, compared to the 79.1 percent for all students.
The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance is the statewide advocacy organization for affordable housing and homelessness policy, leading the movement to ensure that everyone in Washington has the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home.