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Washingtonians at Risk of Imminent Health and Economic Trauma without Renewed COVID Relief

Critical Funding Needed to Address Hunger, Housing, & Healthcare

More than 1 in 4 Washington adults are experiencing difficulty covering basic needs, including housing and food – according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data. What’s more, nearly 1 in 10 Washington adults don’t currently have enough to eat. For 11% of adults living with children, there isn’t enough food for their children.

The worst is yet to come right as we enter the cold winter months. Advocates say that more than 1.5 million Washingtonians are at risk of homelessness, hunger and other long-term effects of poverty if Congress fails to pass additional relief.

Federal CARES Act funding has been essential for state and local governments to provide critical functions, including: supporting remote learning for children, distributing food boxes at food banks, getting PPE supplies to health workers, and providing rent assistance to prevent evictions and homelessness.

Federal relief funds expire at the end of this month, yet jobless benefits claims from Washingtonians are rising as COVID-19 infection rates soar. The combined effect of these twin crises is pushing our health system and our social safety net to the brink.

Without new state and federal funding, hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians face imminent trauma and are at risk of long-term health threats and economic instability.

Critical Public Supports Are Inadequate or Expiring

  • When Congress approved an increase in SNAP benefits in the spring, USDA excluded the poorest 40% of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households: they have received no additional food assistance since the pandemic began.
  • Lifting eviction moratoriums in other states led to more than 433,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 10,000 deaths across the country, Washington’s eviction moratorium is keeping people healthy and saving lives, but it expires December 31.
  • Relief for undocumented workers required applications to receive assistance, but the deadline to apply for help was December 6.
  • Enhanced unemployment benefits expire December 31; many workers have already run out of unemployment assistance if they lost jobs early in the crisis.

December 30 is the end to nearly $3 billion in federal aid to state, local, and tribal governments designed to keep services open and ensure money continues to circulate in local communities.

Congress is currently negotiating another COVID relief package that can provide some immediate relief but will not be robust enough for the long-term economic needs that lie ahead. At the same time, Washington state legislators are preparing to convene to write a two-year budget. Urgent action is needed at all levels of government to respond to these dire needs and invest in the strategies that have worked to help the people who are being hardest hit by the economic crisis.

As more and more people face the possibility of being pushed into poverty or losing their homes, Congress must pass another COVID relief bill. And federal and state lawmakers must extend or invest in critical public supports – programs like the Washington Worker Relief Fund for undocumented workers, extended unemployment insurance, direct cash to people with low incomes, rent assistance, and enhanced SNAP benefits. Congress must pass a robust package that goes beyond the bare minimum.

Comments from Local Advocates on the Need for COVID Relief

“Elected leaders at every level of government must step up respond to the needs of the hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians facing further economic fallout as limited cash, housing, and food assistance from Congress is set to expire,” said Misha Werschkul, Executive Director of the Washington State Budget & Policy Center. “Urgent action is needed to stabilize people across Washington state and to lay the foundation for an equitable economic recovery.”

Christina Wong, Public Policy and Advocacy Director at Northwest Harvest said, “We know from our work with people that struggle with hunger that they do everything they can, including skipping meals or eating scraps to ensure that their children eat first. The fact that children don’t have enough to eat is a sign of real crisis. We must intervene now to prevent the long-term impacts that hunger has on children’s abilities to learn, on their health and sense of security needed for emotional development. Congress must boost SNAP benefits so families can afford basic nutrition, and dedicate funds for school nutrition programs that provide access to meals for kids.”

“Without relief, thousands of people are likely to lose their homes – in the middle of winter, during this COVID-19 surge. That’s unacceptable, and it’s entirely avoidable,” said Rachael Myers, Executive Director of Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.  “We are calling on Governor Inslee to extend the eviction moratorium and provide rental assistance to help both tenants and landlords. Without these protections, homelessness will skyrocket, and more people will be exposed to COVID-19 when they are forced to double and triple up with other families, stay in shelters, or live in cars or tents without access to adequate hygiene facilities.”

“Immigrant communities have been hit hard by COVID-19 – with higher rates of job loss and for those with no choice but to work in essential roles, higher rates of infection. Too many are unfairly excluded from relief that that would help them stay healthy and safe,” said OneAmerica’s Communications Director Robin Engle. “With more than 90,000 applications received by Washington State’s COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund, the need is clear. Congress must include immigrants in any relief package.”

Relief Fund applicant and OneAmerica leader Diana Gonzales is one example. Gonzales’ husband lost his job in construction, and her children needed round-the-clock care as they shifted to virtual school. The family could not rely on unemployment or federal stimulus due to their immigration status. Feeling isolated and forgotten, she and others in the community have taken a public stand to advocate for Washington’s relief fund, one of the first in the nation.

To speak with advocates for communities directly impacted by the financial fallout caused by the pandemic, contact or

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