Legislative Updates 2023 Legislative Priorities January 9, 2023 Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on Email During the 2023 legislative session our Advocacy Team will be supporting: Healthy School Meals for All – HB 1238 / SB 5339 Children need healthy school breakfasts and lunches to focus on learning and get the most out of their education. Paperwork, the cost of meals, and stigma are all barriers for student access and participation in school meals; and for schools, collecting applications and having to categorize meals for proper reimbursement rates are heavy administrative burdens. The solution is to provide healthy school meals at no cost for families because it is an essential service to a well-rounded learning environment. We support proposed legislation to include school nutrition as part of the basic definition of education services, maximize the participation and use of federal funding streams, and supplement with state funding so that schools have the resources needed to distribute meals and students can count on consistent fuel for learning and play. Hunger Free Campuses (HB 1559 / SB 5566) Students at universities and community colleges are increasingly experiencing food insecurity in the face of higher costs of living and constraints on family support due to similar struggles with affording basic necessities. The Hunger Free Campus bill will outline a comprehensive approach to providing students with resources to access nutritious food and meals including: a single campus resource for assistance with identifying and applying for public benefits, a skilled navigator on community college campuses to connect students on SNAP with supportive services, an administrative body that is inclusive of students’ lived experience in defining and implementing a hunger outreach program, piloting a program to help subsidize meal plans for lower income students, and support the data collection needed to fully evaluate and understand the effectiveness of these supports on reducing student hunger. Addressing Hunger Relief (HB 1784) The costs of food, gas, and other essentials for basic living have remained stubbornly high, tightly constraining household budgets. The result has been an increased need and food banks are struggling to keep up with demand: the food inventory for the three largest food banks in our state are 75%-80% lower than this time last year. The consumer need for food bank services is expected to increase even more when COVID-era increases to Basic Food (SNAP or “food stamps”) end in March. This bill proposes a targeted slate of investments in emergency food programs, matching dollars when SNAP is used to buy fruits and vegetables, and senior meals to help bolster these services when hunger is expected to rise in the coming months. Increase the Purchasing Power of Basic Food Washington is home to successful and comprehensive programs that help households on Basic Food (SNAP or “food stamps”) buy more fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets and grocery stores. An increase to our state investment in these programs will help grow these programs to meet greater need for food assistance, position Washington for drawing down more federal funding, and will generate more revenue to support jobs and businesses in Washington’s food economy. Support Washington’s Food Banks Nearly 1 in 11 Washington households still struggle to put food on the table. Washington’s food banks and meal programs are challenged to meet the continued high demand for food assistance due to high food prices, supply chain disruptions, and a shortage of labor. Increased support to help food banks afford staffing, food purchases, and equipment help keep our doors open for business. We will also be monitoring and tracking the following support agenda anti-poverty bills: Wealth Tax and a Fairer Tax Code in WA – SB 5486 Northwest Harvest cannot understate our unequivocal support for a fair and just tax system. Currently Washington’s tax system generates revenue at the expense of low- and moderate-income earners. The first step in correcting this upside-down tax code is by passing a 1% tax on financial property in excess of $250 million. Direct Cash Benefits Working Families Tax Credit – HB 1477 & HB 1075 Washington made history in 2021 when the legislature passed and funded the Working Families Tax Credit, a first-of-its-kind direct cash policy for the state that will put millions of dollars back into the pockets of families. That is why we are supporting House Bill 1075/Senate Bill 5249 – a bill that would expand the Working Families Tax Credit to low-income, working young people and seniors. From young college students to seniors still in the workforce, people with low incomes are all trying to make ends meet. However, the current age range for childless workers limits the lifesaving WFTC cash to those who are 25-65 years old. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – HB 1447 Everyone deserves to have what they need to survive and thrive. Our safety net should provide pathways out of poverty. TANF is currently a lifeline for folks, but still falls short in many ways. We’re firmly in support of: making TANF hardship time limit extensions for all households permanent and eliminating time limits for child-only cases. These two fixes can empower families to utilize this benefit to its fullest potential. Housing Preventing landlords from making false or exaggerated claims of damages at move out – HB 1074 We can ensure renters are protected by prohibiting landlords from withholding tenant deposits in certain instances and ensure no renter is denied deposit refunds due to unsubstantiated damage claims. The bill provides a three-year statute of limitations for landlords to file a lawsuit to recover any expenses exceeding a damage deposit. Increasing notice of closure and opportunity to purchase – SB 5198 Another protection our legislature can take up is requiring mobile home park landlords to provide notice to tenants before listing a park for sale and three years notice when closing. Moreover, tenants can be compensated for relocation costs up to the value of their home. 21st-century update to our state’s eviction system – SB 5197 Washington can implement lessons learned from the pandemic by allowing remote participation in eviction proceedings, extending the rental assistance window which many rely on, reducing the number of “defaults” so each situation and case is judged on a case-by-case basis. Health Equity Dental Therapy – HB 1678 Everyone deserves access to quality oral health care and a healthy smile. However, Washington state is in the midst of a severe oral health crisis, with over two million people living in an area with a dental provider shortage. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with significant backlogs in unmet health and dental care, Washington state continues to face oral health workforce shortages. These dynamics only compound existing oral health access barriers and longstanding inequities in oral health. Now, more than ever, the state legislature should focus on expanding the dental workforce and increasing access to critical oral health care. Health Equity for Immigrant Workers Immigrants in our state are 11 times more likely to lack health insurance than U.S. citizens. Building on the success of prior years, which created a state-funded Medicaid-equivalent program, as well as an Exchange coverage program with subsidies for lower-income immigrants, the Health Equity for Immigrants Campaign now demands a strong budget allocation to fund and implement these programs. Meeting the basic health care needs of all Washingtonians will make every community healthier and our economy stronger.