At 6:15 a.m. on Wednesday, legislators passed a final state budget that will affect Washington’s kids for years to come.
Thanks to an extraordinary push from parents, children, and advocates across the state, we protected kids in the budget on a few major issues, and even made progress for them.
The legislature maintained State Food Assistance, which puts food on the table for 12,500 hungry children. Though we prevented a deeper cut that would have hit families harder, a dramatic drop in benefits will halve assistance to less than $2 per person per day. Children’s Alliance will work with affected families to restore benefits.
The legislature also refrained from further cuts to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), so thousands of families won’t see a repeat of the grant reductions and cut-offs of last year’s budget. The family cap on TANF was also restored to 2011 levels, so 1,840 struggling families will be less financially squeezed.
Working Connections Child Care was restored to 200 percent from 175 percent of the federal poverty level, affecting about 2,500 working families who will be able to receive child care assistance to help keep their kids safe while they work.
Legislators also took steps to ensure that infants and toddlers are cared for in settings that strengthen their cognitive skills to set them up for success and close the opportunity gap. The final budget forms a leadership structure to advise Washington’s early learning expansion to children from birth to age three, as well as a way for educators and other stakeholders to inform its progress.
Apple Health for Kids will remain a vital source of health coverage for all Washington kids with $1 million in enrollment assistance funding included in the budget. While about 6 percent of Washington’s kids are uninsured, two to three times as many go without coverage in some communities of color. This funding will be a huge step toward the goal of covering all kids.
This session, Children’s Alliance members persistently reminded legislators to choose kids over big banks and tobacco companies. Their voices made an impact. The final budget has the first revenue passed since 2010.
Despite a challenging legislative session, our work prevented a series of harmful budget proposals from pushing more children into poverty.
Hard times and cuts from previous budgets are still hurting families all over the state, with an unfair and inequitable impact on immigrant families and kids of color. We start now to help state officials strengthen their resolve to protect all kids when they reconvene in Olympia next year.