Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy
Friday, April 5, 2013 - 5:34pm
Edited - April 8, 2013 - 12:13pm
The Senate released their budget on Wednesday, April 3. Although Senate budget writers have characterized it as “protecting the most vulnerable,” the budget eliminates the Aged, Blind, and Disabled program and makes cruel and inhuman cuts to programs that prevent and end homelessness. Details are below. We will continue to update this as more information becomes clear, but here are the most important things to note:
- The Senate Budget represents a drastic step backward for Washington State and will greatly increase homelessness, poverty, and human suffering.
- Eliminates Aged, Blind, and Disabled and cuts state homelessness programs by 52%.
- By our calculations, will double the number of people experiencing homelessness from 2013 – 2015, a jaw-dropping 20,400 more people experiencing homelessness.
- Drastically cuts a variety of safety net programs like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Working Connections Child Care (WCCC).
Next steps in the budget process
Now that the Senate has released their Operating Budget, the next big development will be the House’s response. We expect to see a House Operating Budget (as well as a House Capital Budget) early next week, probably on Wednesday. The Senate passed their budget out of committee last night (Thursday, the 4th) and plan/hope to pass it out of the Senate today (Friday, the 5th). We know that there may be more attempts at amendments on the Floor of the Senate to correct some of the problems, but it is uncertain if there are votes to support them.
Action to take
Email your elected officials. By clicking here, you'll be directed to a page where you can quickly and easily send an email to your Senators telling them to vote no on this horrible budget and also an email to your Representatives asking them to counter this bad budget with a proposal that fully supports affordable housing and homelessness programs.
We’ve strategically chosen to make the Housing Trust Fund a big focus of the action to the House because if the Senate releases a Capital Budget, it is very likely to not include any funding for the Housing Trust Fund. There have already been solid declarations of support from the House to counter cuts to homelessness programs, including HEN and ABD, and we need to make sure that we also have solid declarations for support for the Housing Trust Fund.
Senate Budget (PSSB 5034) cuts state homelessness programs by 52 percent.
Consolidated Homeless Grants (CHG)
The CHG are the state's primary funding to the counties for various homeless housing services. Administered by the Department of Commerce, these fund such programs as domestic violence shelters, transitional housing for families, and short-term rent assistance. This budget cuts Consolidated Homeless Grants by 50 percent, causing an additional 11,500 people to experience homelessness.
Housing and Essential Needs (HEN)
HEN provides emergency rent and utility assistance (paid directly to the landlord) and provides access to basic needs like hygiene products and bus tokens through an Essential Needs Bank. HEN is cut, yet its caseload (amount of people eligible) is expanded. But the budget only provides 43 percent of the funds needed to serve this vulnerable population. The caseload expansion includes 35 percent of the disabled individuals currently receiving cash through the Aged, Blind, and Disabled program (see below).
Aged, Blind, and Disabled (ABD)
This program is eliminated, effective July 1, 2013. This means approximately 22,000 disabled people across the state receiving the $197 cash benefit will have this small, but critical benefit terminated. They will be eligible for Housing and Essential Needs if they are homeless or at great risk of homelessness (and the Senate assumes that 35% will be), but HEN is significantly reduced and will not even be able to continue serving the current eligible population.
SSI Facilitation and Incapacity Examinations
Beginning July 1, 2015, the state will stop providing facilitation services that move clients to Social Security Insurance (SSI) and will no longer conduct the incapacity examinations used to determine eligibility for SSI facilitation. It's believed that the intention is to provide facilitation services only for those currently receiving them and to cap the program to prevent any additional clients.
The Housing Trust Fund (HTF)
The main source of funding for the Housing Trust Fund is the Capital Budget, and at the time of this writing, the Senate has not released one. However the Senate’s Operating Budget and a related bill impact it. The Senate Budget redirects $2.5 million a year in Housing Trust Fund loan repayments to other accounts. SSB 5895 eliminates deposits to the HTF from the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) and redirects those deposits to the Education Legacy Trust Account for funding education. Currently the REET is one of several Housing Trust Account revenue sources. This bill would eliminate this one source and redirect it permanently. As of January 2013, REET was projected to be approximately $950,000 in 2013-15 Biennium.
Operations and Maintenance Funds (O&M)
Operations and Maintenance (O&M) funds support projects serving very low-income populations. Because such projects charge little or no rent, supplemental income is needed to ensure that they can operate. The state provides small, but critical, O&M contracts to a number of projects across the state. The contracts are funded via a portion of real estate document recording fee revenue. Currently O&M provides operating subsidies to 72 projects serving high-need populations across the state. Projects supported include emergency shelters, transitional housing, seasonal farmworker, group homes, and multi-family projects serving households with special needs and extremely low incomes.
The Senate Budget eliminates Operating and Maintenance Funds (O&M) and uses them to backfill some homeless programs. That change is likely to result in the closure of nonprofit homeless shelters and other community assets that support some of the most vulnerable people in our state. It also could also risk the viability of some projects currently applying for HTF dollars.
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
TANF provides temporary cash and medical help for families in need. Some families participate in the WorkFirst Program, which helps participants find and keep employment. Another program to know is Working Connections Child Care (WCCC), which helps families with low incomes pay for child care while they work or meet WorkFirst participation requirements.
Thanks to Statewide Poverty Action Network, for providing the following summary. (Please note, we have edited this down for length and clarity.)
TANF Money Swept to General Fund
The $143,918,000 in TANF and Working Connection Childcare (WCCC) caseload underspend funds were transferred to the state general fund. It is important to understand that the origins of this underspend are due to the caseloads being artificially suppressed by budget cuts and policy changes that have been made over the past several years*. This has occurred while family and child poverty has increased and deepened during the Great Recession; these funds should instead be used to restore deep cuts that have made it difficult for TANF families to meet their basic survival needs.
*If you were following conversations about the Governor’s proposal for a new Rapid Re-Housing Program, you may note that the program depended on some of the TANF underspend for funding. The Rapid Re-Housing Program was not included in the Senate’s budget.
Assistance Will Not Adjust with Family Size
This budget also cuts $2,708,000 from TANF by creating a "family cap policy." This policy freezes a family's cash grant amount to their family size at entrance of the TANF program. This means that if they have additional children while on TANF, their cash grant is not increased. This will make it more difficult for parents to meet their children's basic needs and is an anti-child and anti-family policy.
Services to TANF Families Reduced
The Senate Budget also cuts $14,526,000 from TANF by reducing funding to WorkFirst partners by 10%. These WorkFirst partners provide much needed services to help stabilize families. These services include domestic violence support services to address family violence, barrier removal services (such as mental health treatment), education and job training, and job search support. Without access to these services, it is very difficult for TANF families to move out of poverty into employment.
Working Connections Child Care Cut
The Working Connection Child Care cap was reduced from 33,000 slots to 29,000 slots. The WCCC is projected to reach the 33,000 cap by the end of biennium due to administrative improvements that have streamlined the application process and improved access. Low-income parents depend on subsidized childcare in order to be able to enter and succeed in the labor market. Without this support, many parents will be unable to afford to work due to the high cost of childcare.
TANF Contingency Funds Cut
The budget cuts $33,817,000 in federal TANF contingency funds. Washington State received these funds because of our high poverty rate. TANF has been cut by $385,000,000 since 2009 and an additional $200,000,000 in funding has been swept to the general fund. We should restore deep cuts that have hurt families rather than transferring much needed resources out of TANF.
TANF Redesign Cut
The Senate Budget cuts $4,073,000 in caseload savings from the TANF redesign process. The TANF redesign process, which was intended to improve services to TANF families in order to accelerate their pathway out of poverty, will only succeed if it is adequately funded. Reducing funding will limit essential services that help TANF families succeed.
Washington Families Fund (WFF)
WFF is a private/public partnership that funds innovative programs around the state focused on transitioning homeless families into stable housing. The Senate budget originally did not include funding for the WFF, but Senator Sharon Nelson (34th-Maury Island) introduced an amendment in Senate Ways and Means Committee that funds the Families Fund at approximately $5.3 million. The amendment passed the committee unanimously and was part of the bill that passed the Senate. Unfortunately, the funds are redirected from other homeless programs and we will continue to advocate for new dollars for this important program. Funding one program by raiding another is not a victory, and indeed, is the shell game that the Senate budget has largely relied on.
We will adjust and update this analysis as more information comes in, posting to Twitter and Facebook when we update our analysis.
Time to speak out and take action on the Senate's budget! Click here to tell your legislators.