Weekly Update: What the Heck is Happening in Olympia?!

AHNC Members,

By now you have received numerous emails from the AHNC and other stakeholders, asking you to take action and contact lawmakers in Olympia to urge them to support critical anti-hunger programs, specifically State Food Assistance, which the Senate proposes to completely eliminate.

How did we get here? 

Tuesday February 2nd, the Senate Ways and Means Committee released their budget proposal and heard public testimony later that night. While it contained few options to increase revenue and used apportionment to reduce the amount of cuts that needed to be made to balance the budget by moving the due date for some K-12 education costs to the next fiscal year, the budget proposal was generally applauded by advocates for low-income families. That Senate budget preserved current funding appropriations for our state’s nutrition assistance programs, TANF benefits amounts, and Disability Lifeline’s Medical and Housing/Essential Needs programs. K-12 education was also saved from any additional cuts.

On the following Friday evening, March 2nd, the Republican caucus, along with three fiscal conservative Democrats, joined forces to pull a Republican version of the budget proposal to the floor for a vote. This budget had no public notice and no public review or hearings. Their proposal replaced all the language of the budget bill that had had hearings and passed out of committee already. It makes cuts to basic and higher education and deep cuts to human services, including eliminating the State Food Assistance Program (SFA). That budget passed the Senate very early Saturday morning, with all but the three Democratic Senators voting against it.

On Thursday afternoon, the final day of the regular session, the House rejected the Senate’s budget.

What is the impact on AHNC’s legislative priorities?

This Senate budget included the following:

  • Elimination of the State Food Assistance Program which provides state-funded food stamps to feed legal immigrants. Around 31,000 individuals, including 12,500 children currently benefit from SFA.
  • WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, school meals and EFAP had no cuts

 

Additionally, the budget levels more harmful cuts to programs children and families rely on to meet their basic needs:

  • $202 million was cut from TANF(2% less in monthly payments that help low-income families get by), as well as a lower lifetime limit on TANF (48 months, not 60 months allowed by federal standards).
  • Cuts to Maternity Support Services (support for high-risk pregnant women and young babies) and family planning services
  • The Disability Lifeline Medical Program (provides health care for people with disabilities who cannot work) was eliminated, as well as cuts to the DL Housing and Essential Needs funds.

Will there be a special legislative session?

YES.  The end to the regular session was yesterday, March 8th.  Last night Governor Gregoire called for a special session beginning Monday March 13th at noon, and lasting for 30 days.  Lawmakers must come together during that time to formulate an agreed upon budget to send to the Governor for her signature.        

If the legislature cannot formulate an agreed upon supplemental budget during the special session, the Governor could balance our budget with across the board cuts. This will mean nutrition assistance programs such as the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which provides funding for food banks to pay for operations transportation, and food purchasing costs, may suffer from a cut in funding. Some programs, such as the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which provides money for low-income seniors and families with young children to purchase produce at local farmers markets, may not survive any further cuts in funding.

What’s next?

We must continue to advocate strongly for the programs Washingtonians rely on to survive. If you have not yet contacted lawmakers, now is the time. We are asking people to fax letters, send emails (individualized, not form alerts) or make calls and ask to speak to your legislator or their staff directly. Lawmakers need to hear from you:

1.     Thank you’s to members of the House and Senate who worked to pass a budget which included funding for our legislative priorities.

2.     Urge lawmakers to work together to pass a budget that does not have cuts to critical human services programs, including anti-hunger programs, and which avoids the prospect of an all-cuts budget from the Governor’s office.

3.    Restore funding to State Food Assistance and include language to give the Department of Social and Human Services flexibility to increase monthly SFA benefits when funding becomes available.

The AHNC will continue to send critical updates and action alerts as events unfold in Olympia. Please be sure to take action as needed and share these updates with your networks.

Upcoming Events:

United Way of King County is hosting Hunger Action Week March 19-24th.  To register, click here. For more information on the event, click here.

AHNC Membership meeting: Tuesday April 10th, 2:30-4:30pm, location TBA

Hunger Relief, Legislative Session in the News

Children’s Alliance Op-ed in Publicola

Spokesman Review article on Marshallese family

Congressional hearing on food stamps



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                       ahnc@wsahnc.org