Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy
Last week was very busy in Olympia with the release of two new budget bills and another cutoff. With Sine Die (the last day of the regular session) rapidly approaching on April 23, the pace in Olympia won’t slow down any time soon. The budgets introduced last week included much better news for affordable housing and homelessness than the Senate’s Operating Budget (which was released the prior week and was detailed in last week’s blog post). The House Operating Budget was a net positive for affordable housing and homelessness, and the Senate’s Capital Budget proposal came in much higher than normal for the Housing Trust Fund ($96.572 million). Once the House releases their Capital Budget bill on Wednesday, all budget proposals will be out.
It is unclear if budget negotiations are already underway between the House and the Senate, but regardless it is not expected that compromise will be reached before April 23rd. The Housing Alliance is pushing for the adoption of the House Operating Budget and for both chambers to get much closer to our Housing Trust Fund ask of $200 million for this biennium.
Here is a comparison of the House and Senate Operating Budgets on key affordable housing and homelessness issues:
Housing and Essential Needs (HEN)
What is it? HEN provides rental assistance and access to basic sanitary items for extremely low-income, temporarily disabled adults.
Senate Budget: The original budget proposal completely eliminated all funding for HEN, but it was amended to include $10 million for the program. This amounts to a cut of over 80%.
House Budget: Fully funds the program, plus creates a new transportation stipend. Beginning in July 2018, $10 per month is provided to cover the cost of travel expenses for Housing and Essential Needs recipients.
Aged, Blind, and Disabled (ABD) cash assistance
What is it? ABD provides cash assistance (currently $197) for extremely low-income, permanently disabled adults, and SSI facilitation services to assist in obtaining federal benefits.
Senate Budget: Per SB 5898/Braun, the Senate’s budget assumes savings from a new 35-month time limit for receiving the ABD cash grant, which would terminate the benefit for approximately 2,400 individuals.
House Budget: The House budget fully funds the program and also increases the monthly cash grant beginning in July 2018, from $197 per month to $227 per month.
Medicaid Transformation Demonstration
What is it? Washington has finalized an agreement with the federal government for a five-year demonstration that allows innovative uses of Medicaid dollars to improve health, provide better care, and lower costs. Under the demonstration, the state will receive up to $1.5 billion in federal investments. The demonstration includes investments in Permanent Supportive Housing Services impacting the health and well being of people with disabilities experiencing long-term homelessness.
Senate Budget: Suspends the state’s ability to move forward with the demonstration and rejects $1.5 billion federal dollars to serve the health needs of low-income Medicaid recipients.
House Budget: Provides budget authority for the state to move forward with the demonstration and accept the federal funds.
Young Adult Housing and Shelter
What is it? The Young Adult Shelter program provides Emergency, temporary shelter, assessment, referrals, and permanency planning services for young adults ages 18 through 24, and the Young Adult Housing Program provides rental assistance.
Senate Budget: Eliminates all funding.
House Budget: Fully funds.
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
What is it? TANF provides modest cash assistance to extremely low-income adults with dependent children.
Senate Budget: Eliminates approximately $96 million from the TANF program, plus over $44 million from the Working Connections Childcare Program.
House Budget: Adds over $12 million to increase the cash grant by 8% starting in July 2018 (for example, a grant for a family of 4 is raised from $613 to $662). This budget section also increases the grants for State Family Assistance and Refugee Cash Assistance by 8%.
The House Operating Budget also adds other additional funds:
- Funds are added to account for HB 1831/Pettigrew, which raises the asset limit caps that applicants to TANF, HEN, and ABD can have in order to qualify for the programs. The bill allows for a higher maximum value of a vehicle, and for a person to have slightly higher amounts of “liquidable cash” including in their kids’ savings accounts, a burial plot, 401Ks, etc.
- Funds are added from the General Fund to provide new rental assistance resources for homeless families ($1 million) and for funding for permanent supportive housing services ($6 million).
- Funds are added to assist youth exiting state institutions to find housing ($3 million from the General Fund, plus an additional $1 million from the Home Security Fund).
The House Revenue Package
The House’s budget proposal meets the McCleary mandate to invest new dollars in k-12 education without cutting human services or other important functions of state government. They are able to do this because they have also introduced a revenue package that would generate over $2.8 billion dollars this biennium. HB 2186 by Representative Lytton (D, 40th LD) was heard in the House Appropriations Committee on Monday morning (April 3). Over 120 people signed in to testify on the bill, the majority in support. The Housing Alliance signed in pro and believes that this tax package is fair, smart, and responsible. Interestingly, many people and businesses across the state would actually experience a tax reduction. Here are resources to learn more about the package:
Washington Budget and Policy Center (overview of House revenue package and also Senate revenue proposal)
What to expect next
The last budget to be released is the House Capital Budget. The House Capital Budget Committee has said that it will release its budget proposal on Wednesday, April 5 and will hold a hearing on it at 8:00 am on Thursday, April 6. The Senate budget set funding for the Housing Trust Fund at $96.572 million, and added an additional earmark for an affordable housing project to bring the overall affordable housing investment to $99 million. We hope that the House will come much closer to our biennial ask of $200 million. We need to get as close as possible in order for the 2018 supplemental Capital Budget appropriation to be able to feasibly close the gap to end the biennium with $200 million. The Housing Alliance testified last week on the Senate’s Capital Budget with thanks for the historically high starting point, but we noted that it was still far from our total ask. You can watch our testimony here. Keep watching for the next panel of three stellar advocates who also testified from Plymouth Housing, the YWCA of Seattle, King and Snohomish, and from the Tacoma Pierce County Affordable Housing Consortium.
Tuesday the 4th marks the next cutoff – all bills must clear the opposite chamber’s fiscal committee in order to keep moving (unless of course it has that special “NTIB – Necessary to Implement the Budget” status which exempts it from cutoffs). And then next week, April 12, brings the big floor cutoff. All bills must clear the opposite floor by that date in order to keep on moving towards the governor’s signature.
Keep connected to the Housing Alliance emails and social media for breaking news over the next couple of weeks. As things heat up and move more quickly in these final weeks, big decisions will likely be made. We will continue to keep you informed. The next advocate’s call is scheduled for Friday, April 14 at 11:00am. We provide detailed updates in this hour-long call for all affordable housing and homelessness advocates. Just email Reiny for the call in number and code: email@example.com.
Lastly, we had no new submissions for our “Ask a Lobbyist” column this week. But if you have a question you’d like to ask about the legislative process, about lobbying in Olympia or about the politics impacting affordable housing and homelessness… ask away! We’d love to answer your questions. Just submit your question (and note we will keep your identity anonymous) to Reiny at firstname.lastname@example.org.