Measuring the Harm of the Senate Budget
Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy
If the Senate budget passes, state homelessness programs will be cut by 50%.
The legislature ended the regular session on Sunday, April 28, without a resolution on the budget. Governor Jay Inslee has announced that he’ll call them back into special session on Monday, May 13 to finish budget negotiations. There are significant differences between competing budget proposals and much at stake for people struggling with homelessness or housing insecurity.
The Senate’s Operating Budget proposal, which passed out of their chamber with bipartisan votes, makes deep cuts to virtually every state homeless program:
- The Consolidated Homeless Grant (CHG), which funds emergency shelter, domestic violence shelters, provides rent assistance and more is cut by 50%.
- The Aged, Blind, and Disabled (ABD) program, which provides modest cash assistance to people who are permanently disabled and unable to work is eliminated.
- The Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program, which provides rent and utility assistance to temporarily disabled people is cut by 57%.
- Operations and Maintenance (O&M) support for affordable housing programs that serve extremely low income households exiting homelessness is eliminated. This is funding that helps pay for basic operations since the deeply affordable rent levels can’t provide enough to support day to day functions.
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), which provides cash assistance and access to other childcare and vocational programs for very low income parents with dependent children is cut deeply cut.
In an extreme contrast, the House Operating Budget fully funds all these programs and adds a new program called “Ending Family Homelessness” which aims to end homelessness for households with children who are unsheltered or living in shelters and motels. Unlike the Senate’s all-cuts budget, the House avoided such devastating cuts by including revenue in their budget. The House’s proposed budget better matches our state’s values by protecting the safety net while also investing in public education.
Cuts to homelessness services are unacceptable at a time when so many in our state are struggling to leave homelessness behind or to keep a roof over their head. On any given night at least 20,000 of people in Washington are surviving outdoors or in temporary shelter. More than 27,000 public school students experienced homelessness last year. Many thousands more are living in deep poverty and paying more than they can afford for rent, leaving them extremely vulnerable to homelessness.
At a time when we need to do more to prevent and end homelessness, the Senate proposes to set us back even further. Enacting their budget would cause at least 20,500 more people to experience homelessness over the next two years.
Protecting services that prevent and end homelessness is impossible without enacting new revenue. Please tell your lawmakers that protecting the most vulnerable is more important than tax beaks for special interests.