Legislative Updates 2024 Legislative Priorities December 22, 2023 Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on Email During the 2024 legislative session our Advocacy Team will be supporting: Healthy School Meals for All (HB 2058) 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. Support Summer EBT and Combat Summertime Hunger Washington needs to use every tool available to help struggling kids. Congress recently created Summer EBT, a successor to the effective and popular Pandemic EBT, which provides summertime food assistance for low-income K-12 students. Investing $5.5 million to get our state’s program running for summer 2024 would ensure approximately 506,000 low-income Washington families afford more groceries when schools are closed. Sustain Senior Nutrition Programs In coalition with the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging, AARP, and others, Northwest Harvest is asking for $15.2 million per year for senior nutrition programs. Washington’s number of seniors facing hunger is only going up as the age wave only grows. Now is our opportunity to invest before we reach a crisis point. We also know that meals, especially for vulnerable populations, sit at the nexus of virtually every other basic need. From ensuring socialization for older adults to preventing hospitalization and delaying residential care. Support Washington’s Food Banks As pandemic–era support and funds are drying up, food insecurity and reliance on food banks remain stubbornly high. In fact, according to WSDA’s latest data comparing food bank clients for 2022 to 2023, new client visits increased 33%; clients that visited a food bank more than once in the year increased 28%. In total, WSDA recorded 10.788 million client visits to food banks and food pantries in 2023. Therefore, Northwest Harvest, the Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition, and the Washington Food Coalition are requesting an additional one-time investment of $15 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) to meet this historic level of need. Fully Fund the Postsecondary Needs Act Last session, the legislature made strides toward easing the burden of hunger on college campuses by passing HB 1559 (The Postsecondary Basic Needs Act), which included policy provisions for basic needs navigators on college campuses. However, this session legislators must close the funding gap that was inadvertently created to ensure students facing barriers to meeting their basic needs have access to a robust support system. We will also be monitoring and tracking the following support agenda anti-poverty bills: Build equity in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): Time Limit Exemptions & 100% Child-Support Pass Through Families experiencing deep poverty don’t need additional, superfluous burdens. One way Washington can achieve more equitable outcomes for these families in deep poverty is by permanently allowing time limit exemptions for families experiencing hardship who participate in and otherwise meet all requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Additionally, in Washington state, if a child’s family receives TANF and child support that is paid by a non-custodial parent, the state collects and withholds their child support payments. During the Great Recession, the Child Support Pass-Through was eliminated and has since only been partially reinstated. We believe families should be allowed to keep 100% of the child support payments. Promote Food Security with Housing Security & Tenant Rights Food security is tied to housing security, but Washington’s laws don’t protect tenants from excessive rent increases, predatory fees, or inadequate notice about rent hikes. Excessive rent increases are increasing evictions and homelessness, especially for seniors and people of color. To support housing security, tenants need greater protections and more time to be able to make plans when rents do go up. Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot Creating the Evergreen Basic Income pilot ensures very low-income people have money to meet their needs in a way that provides flexibility and autonomy. GBI programs are proven to have positive impacts on poverty, hunger, mental health, housing stability, and more. Progressive Revenue Solutions Washington has made great strides toward greater tax fairness, but our lowest-income residents are still paying the highest share of their income in taxes, while the wealthiest pay the least. Our tax code is still the most upside down in the nation. That’s why we’re calling on lawmakers to keep building an equitable tax system that ensures opportunity for all Washingtonians, no exceptions.