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2023 Legislative Session Summary

Well, folks, it happened: we wrapped up the 2023 legislative session on Sunday, April 24. Our entire staff and many of our partners and community members really showed up to advocate for anti-hunger and anti-poverty measures this year!  

Now that the ink has dried on the bills that have been sent to the Governor’s desk, it’s time to share how our priorities fared in the final 2023-2025 biennium operating budget. Overall, there was lots of good news regarding the funding for our legislative priorities:  

 Increased funding to help food banks respond to community hunger

  • $35 million one-time funding for We Feed Washington. 
  • $30 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP). 

Expanded funding to help low-income people afford fruits and vegetables 

  • One-time funding increased to $6 million to support SNAP matches at farmers markets and grocery stores and produce prescription vouchers. 

School meals 

  • $59 million to maintain reimbursements for high-poverty, high-need schools that are currently providing no cost meals to their students. 
  • Funding to implement HB 1238, which will add 90,000 more students eating meals at no cost at school buildings that have grades K-4 and are between 30-40% eligible for free/reduced price meals. 

Postsecondary student basic needs 

  • About $8 million in total to implement HB 1559. The funding will help Washington’s public universities and community colleges provide comprehensive services to help students apply for benefits to help them meet their basic needs, fund two pilot meal voucher programs for low-income students to access meals at campus dining halls and create a statewide framework to share best practices for addressing student hunger and basic needs insecurity. 

Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program  

  • Federal dollars will be used to expand vouchers to 8,000 more seniors and help with the transition of putting that benefit on EBT instead of paper. 

We also saw some major wins based on our support agenda items that focus on reducing poverty: 

  • HB 1447, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) bill will make several improvements so that more families with children living in deep poverty will be able to access TANF services. These changes include raising the asset limit and waiving the value of a vehicle so that families can maintain some rainy day savings and still apply for TANF; creating a smoother off ramp from the program by allowing recipients to keep more of their earnings without a benefits cliff; and giving more time to continue services beyond the 60-month lifetime limit in child-only TANF cases. 
  • The TANF diaper subsidy is funded to provide $100/month for families with children under three. 
  • 8% increase to cash grants including TANF, Aged Blind and Disabled (ABD), and the emergency cash programs for immigrants. 
  • Although a bill for a statewide Guaranteed Basic Income pilot program failed, progress will continue with a one-time extension of Pierce County’s GRIT program. 
  • Funding to implement HB 1260 which includes eliminating repaying the state ABD benefits in the same period when the recipient starts receiving Social Security Income benefits.  
  • The Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program was increased to provide benefits to more eligible recipients. 
  • The Housing Trust Fund received $400 million in funding.  
  • 1477, the Working Families Tax Credit technical fixes, was funded. This bill will provide a three-year look-back period for eligibility for prior years credits and allow for applicants who are married but filed separately. 

We will continue to share details and ongoing updates about our legislative wins from this session in the upcoming weeks on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter: @NWHarvest.