View or download our sign on letter to lawmakers calling for these budget investments.
Invest $500 million in affordable homes:
Before the pandemic, Washington was already facing an affordable housing and homelessness crisis, but the problem has grown over the last two years as more households struggle to keep a roof over their heads. To afford a modest two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent, a household would need to earn more than $29 per hour. There was a shortage of over 198,000 homes affordable and available to very low-income households.
Recent polling shows that 92% of Washington voters say homelessness and lack of affordable housing are critical issues that the Washington State government should address. With a strong economy and nearly $1 billion left in federal COVID funding, we have the resources to address this crisis. Governor Inslee’s budget proposal included over $430 million for the Housing Trust Fund and rapidly acquiring permanent and emergency housing. The legislature should seize the opportunity and invest at least $500 million into solving one of our state’s biggest problems. These investments will address the immediate need to move people experiencing homelessness into safe shelter during the pandemic and address our longstanding housing crisis.
Increase the Aged, Blind and Disabled (ABD) cash grant for people with disabilities from $197 to $417 per month
The ABD grant has not increased since it was created in 2011 even though housing costs and the cost of basic necessities have dramatically increased. It is impossible to meet your basic needs on $197 a month, which is why in 2020, approximately 43% of people receiving ABD were experiencing homelessness. Financial cash assistance provides opportunities for individuals and families to meet their basic needs. This was included in the Governor’s budget. The cost for the balance of this biennium is $36.2 million.
Workforce capacity and sustainability for nonprofit homelessness service providers and permanent supportive housing providers
Our state’s ability to prevent and end homelessness rests on the shoulders of nonprofit workers across the state who assist people in crisis. The pandemic has strained homelessness nonprofits. Frontline workers face hazardous conditions and experience significant trauma while earning low wages. Many are just one paycheck away from homelessness themselves. The state should invest $78 million to address staffing shortages by providing hazard pay, retention and recruitment bonuses, secondary trauma resources, and other supports for the frontline workers who are so critical to ending homelessness.
State funding and expenditure authority for the State Health Care Authority to continue the Foundational Community Supports (FCS) and the broader Medicaid Transformation Project for another 5 years.
FCS allows the use of federal Medicaid dollars to pay for the services needed to support people exiting unsheltered homelessness and the services needed to support people living in Permanent Supportive Housing. Permanent Supportive Housing is the solution to long-term homelessness and ties housing with services to address people’s physical and behavioral health disabilities.
$1.3 million to address a shortfall for tenants’ Right to Counsel plus an additional $2 million for pre-eviction legal aid
Under Washington’s Right to Counsel program, low-income tenants are provided a free lawyer in eviction court. While this was funded in last year’s budget, an additional $1.3 million is needed to address a shortfall. This was included in the Governor’s budget proposal.
Right to Counsel is available to tenants in eviction court, but pre-eviction civil legal aid is the first line of defense against eviction. It prevents cases from entering the court process and empowers tenants to utilize their rights. Informed tenants can enter dispute resolution with a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities. This results in better outcomes for tenants by improving housing stability. The legislature should include $2 million in the operating budget for pre-eviction civil legal aid.
$4.5 million for foreclosure prevention
With the end of state and federal foreclosure moratoria and forbearance programs, Washington homeowners impacted by the pandemic need immediate help to stay in their homes. As the pandemic continues to evolve and impact the economy, homeowners will feel the ramifications for several years to come. The final budget should include $4.5 million with broad allowable usage to ensure the state’s highly effective Foreclosure Fairness Act safety net - housing counselors, foreclosure prevention hotline staff, legal aid attorneys, and the mediation program - can provide crucial wrap-around support for people navigating the daunting foreclosure process. Homeowners need these advocates on their side to help them retain their homes and set them up for long-term success. This was included in the Governor’s budget.