Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy
First, Take Action
Call your Senators. Get your phone ready and then click here. You'll be directed to a page with a concise advocacy script for your Senator with the message that the Senate needs to match the House budget for funding affordable housing and homelessness programs.
House and Senate Budget Details
Special thanks to Statewide Poverty Action Network for their Senate budget analysis on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Laurie Lippold with Partners for Our Children for her House budget analysis on TANF.
Consolidated Homeless Grants (CHG)
The CHG are the state's primary funding to the counties for various homeless housing services. Administered by the Department of Commerce, these fund such programs as domestic violence shelters, transitional housing for families, and short-term rent assistance.
Senate budget cuts Consolidated Homeless Grants by 50 percent, causing an additional 11,500 people to experience homelessness.
House budget preserves funding for CHG.
Housing and Essential Needs (HEN)
HEN provides emergency rent and utility assistance (paid directly to the landlord) and provides access to basic needs like hygiene products and bus tokens through an Essential Needs Bank.
Senate cuts HEN, yet its caseload (amount of people eligible) is expanded. But the budget only provides 43 percent of the funds needed to serve this vulnerable population. The caseload expansion includes 35 percent of the disabled individuals currently receiving cash through the Aged, Blind, and Disabled program (see below).
House preserves funding for HEN.
Aged, Blind, and Disabled (ABD)
Senate eliminates ABD, effective July 1, 2013. This means approximately 22,000 disabled people across the state receiving the $197 cash benefit will have this small, but critical benefit terminated. They will be eligible for Housing and Essential Needs if they are homeless or at great risk of homelessness (and the Senate assumes that 35% will be), but HEN is significantly reduced and will not even be able to continue serving the current eligible population.
House preserves funding for ABD.
SSI Facilitation and Incapacity Examinations
Senate cuts funding for incapacity evaluations and SSI facilitations. Beginning July 1, 2015, the state will stop providing facilitation services that move clients to Social Security Insurance (SSI) and will no longer conduct the incapacity examinations used to determine eligibility for SSI facilitation. It's believed that the intention is to provide facilitation services only for those already currently receiving them and to cap the program to prevent any additional clients.
House preserves funding for incapacity evaluations and SSI facilitations.
The Housing Trust Fund (HTF)
Senate allocates $35 million to the Housing Trust Fund. The Senate Budget redirects $2.5 million in Housing Trust Fund loan repayments to the General Fund. SSB 5895 eliminates deposits to the HTF from the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) and redirects those deposits to the Education Legacy Trust Account for funding education. Currently the REET is one of a couple Housing Trust Account revenue sources. This bill would eliminate this one source and redirect it permanently. As of January 2013, REET was projected to be approximately $950,000 in 2013-15 Biennium.
House allocates $71 million to affordable housing including the $55.55 million to the Housing Trust Fund in the Capital Budget.
Operations and Maintenance Funds (O&M)
Operations and Maintenance (O&M) funds support projects serving very low-income populations (<30% area median income). Because such projects charge little or no rent, supplemental income is needed to ensure that they can operate. The state provides small, but critical, O&M contracts to a number of projects across the state. The contracts are funded via a portion of real estate document recording fee revenue. Currently O&M provides operating subsidies to 67 projects serving high-need populations across the state. Projects supported include emergency shelters, transitional housing, seasonal farmworker, group homes, and multi-family projects serving households with special needs and extremely low incomes.
Senate eliminates Operating and Maintenance Funds (O&M) and sweeps them to the General Fund. That change is likely to result in the closure of nonprofit homeless and domestic violence shelters and other community assets that support some of the most vulnerable people in our state. It also could also risk the viability of some projects currently applying for HTF dollars.
House preserves funding for O&M.
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
TANF provides temporary cash and medical help for families in need. Some families participate in the WorkFirst Program, which helps participants find and keep employment. Another program to know is Working Connections Child Care (WCCC), which helps families with low incomes pay for child care while they work or meet WorkFirst participation requirements.
TANF Money Swept to General Fund
The $143,918,000 in TANF and Working Connection Childcare (WCCC) caseload underspend funds were transferred to the state general fund. It is important to understand that the origins of this underspend are due to the caseloads being artificially suppressed by budget cuts and policy changes that have been made over the past several years*. This has occurred while family and child poverty has increased and deepened during the Great Recession; these funds should instead be used to restore deep cuts that have made it difficult for TANF families to meet their basic survival needs.
*If you were following conversations about the Governor’s proposal for a new Rapid Re-Housing Program, you may note that the program depended on some of the TANF underspend for funding.
Senate budget does not include the Rapid Re-Housing Program.
House sweeps some of these funds to General Fund,
but also re-invests some in projects such as the Rapid Re-Housing Program.
Assistance Will Not Adjust with Family Size
Senate cuts $2,708,000 from TANF by creating a "family cap policy." This policy freezes a family's cash grant amount to their family size at entrance of the TANF program. This means that if they have additional children while on TANF, their cash grant is not increased. This will make it more difficult for parents to meet their children's basic needs and is an anti-child and anti-family policy.
House does not include a "family cap policy."
Services to TANF Families Reduced
Senate cuts $14,526,000 from TANF by reducing funding to WorkFirst partners by 10%. These WorkFirst partners provide much needed services to help stabilize families. These services include domestic violence support services to address family violence, barrier removal services (such as mental health treatment), education and job training, and job search support. Without access to these services, it is very difficult for TANF families to move out of poverty into employment.
House does not include this WorkFirst partners funding cut.
Working Connections Child Care Cut
Senate reduces the Working Connection Child Care cap from 33,000 slots to 29,000 slots. The WCCC is projected to reach the 33,000 cap by the end of biennium due to administrative improvements that have streamlined the application process and improved access. Low-income parents depend on subsidized childcare in order to be able to enter and succeed in the labor market. Without this support, many parents will be unable to afford to work due to the high cost of childcare.
We are still in the process of analyzing the House Budget’s TANF expenditures.
TANF Contingency Funds Cut
The budget cuts $33,817,000 in federal TANF contingency funds. Washington State received these funds because of our high poverty rate. TANF has been cut by $385,000,000 since 2009 and an additional $200,000,000 in funding has been swept to the general fund. We should restore deep cuts that have hurt families rather than transferring much needed resources out of TANF.
We are still in the process of analyzing the House Budget’s TANF expenditures.
TANF Redesign Cut
Senate budget cuts $4,073,000 in caseload savings from the TANF redesign process. The TANF redesign process, which was intended to improve services to TANF families in order to accelerate their pathway out of poverty, will only succeed if it is adequately funded. Reducing funding will limit essential services that help TANF families succeed.
House budget does not include a cut from a TANF redesign.
Washington Families Fund (WFF)
WFF is a private/public partnership that funds innovative programs around the state focused on transitioning homeless families into stable housing.
The Senate budget originally did not include funding for the WFF, but Senator Nelson introduced an amendment in Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday (the 4th) to add the program back into the budget. The amendment passed and would fund it at $5.3 million. However, the funds to pay for the program are redirected from other homeless programs. While we are grateful and encouraged that law makers see the importance of the WFF, this funding source is not ideal. We will continue to work with our partners and our legislative champions to advocate for new dollars for this important program.
House funds the WFF at $2 million from existing Commerce funds. Although we are happy they are looking to support such an important fund, we will continue to seek General Fund appropriations.
We will adjust and update this analysis as more information comes in, posting to Twitter and Facebook when we update our analysis.
Time to speak out and take action on the Senate's budget! Click here to send a message.