Summary of 2024 Washington State Legislative Session

by | Mar 20, 2024 | Advocacy, Blog | 0 comments

Here’s a summary of the 2024 State legislative session from Claire Lane, Director of Washington State Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition (AHNC).

HIP staff, AmeriCorps members, interns, and board members on the steps of Washington State Capotol Building on Hunger Action Day 2024

Big issues that provided context for this session: 

We know that hunger and poverty are big issues for us, but legislators were grappling with many other issues, too – from fentanyl, K-12 education, behavioral health, affordable housing, transportation, public safety, and the climate crisis. In all, nearly 1,200 bills were introduced this session and just over 120 bills were passed.

In addition to the typical bills, the legislature voted last week to enact 3 of 6 initiatives – the other 3 initiatives will go to the ballot. These initiatives hung over the session because, if passed, they would undo years of hard-won economic justice in our state. Billions of dollars would disappear from our state budget that pays for K-12 education, accessible child care, long-term care for seniors and environmental policies to protect our climate. Not knowing what would happen in November, legislators were wary of ambitious budget commitments, especially in a supplemental year. Yet we knew our requests reflect what’s really needed to keep struggling Washingtonians afloat. 

While our priorities fared well in the final budget agreement, we are deeply disappointed that too many of our priority bills died, and generally, the ones that did pass were scaled back significantly. Yet even these bills survived because of sustained advocacy. Throughout a really tough and fast session (only 60 days!) with intense competition for funding, your advocacy in support of bills and budget requests was impressive – from our largest Hunger Action Day yet, to sending emails, making phone calls, and signing in your support for bills – your voices reminded lawmakers what your communities need. Thanks for making your advocacy make a difference! 

A summary of AHNC’s legislative priorities and the final budget agreement, as well as some added bills/budgets we have been supporting:

AHNC Legislative Agenda – Final Budget & Final Passage of Bills:

$45 million: Free School Meals – Our bills for free school meals for all (HB 2058 / SB 5964did not pass, BUT the budget includes an additional $45M to ensure OSPI/local schools have sufficient funding to cover previous legislation that expanded free school meals using the Community Eligibility Provision. 

$12.23 million: Summer EBT – DSHS received final cost estimates a few weeks ago and the legislature fully invested so Washington can successfully launch a robust Summer EBT program. When the final budget was announced, we were pleased when Sen. June Robinson, chair of Senate Ways & Means, specifically called out funding for free school meals and Summer EBT as important investments for families in working class districts like hers. 

$10 million: Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) – Advocates asked for $15M, and the final budget adds only $10M: an additional $5 million will be available in this current fiscal year, and an additional $5 million in the next fiscal year for a total of $10M in new funding.

We know how desperately needed added funds are for food banks, and we were very hopeful our full request would have been funded, so we are anxious about shortfalls this coming fiscal year. Note that the original biennial budget has already added $15M to next fiscal year, so the total for next fiscal year will be $20M above the typical appropriation. (See HB 2301 below for details about an additional $1.6M for hunger relief)

$12 million: Senior Nutrition Programs via AAAs – Advocates asked for $15.2M/year and the final budget adds only $12 M in one-time funding to cover 13,200 seniors. Despite the shortfall, this is the biggest investment of state dollars in these programs in at least 2 decades – and we’ll be back to keep fighting for hungry seniors!

$767,000: Fully funds College Basic Needs Navigators – The budget funds basic needs navigators at .75 FTE at all college campuses, as intended in last year’s HB 1559. We worked in coalition with others in the Post-Secondary Basic Needs Coalition, and were happy for success with several bills and other investments, like improving the WA College Grant for low income students and expanding Students Experiencing Homelessness grants, too – all of which navigators will make more accessible for students. 

Extend TANF time limits for families living in deep poverty (SHB 2007) – This bill was amended significantly along the way to allow only TANF families with a child under 2 years old and who qualify for an infant/toddler WorkFirst participation exemption to qualify for a time limit extension. Statewide Poverty Action estimates this will help approximately 80 TANF families (rather than the 2,000 families estimated to be covered under the original version). 

Ensure Families on TANF Keep their Child Support Payments (ESHB 1652– Beginning January, 2025 families on TANF will receive 100% of their child support payments, ending the practice of the state withholding their child support payments. The bill passed the Senate unanimously. 

Other Anti-Hunger Related Bills & Budget Items

$100,000: Produce Prescription program (Dept of Health) provides fruit & vegetable vouchers for food insecure patients at risk for chronic disease. 

$1 million: Outreach for Working Families Tax Credit (OFM) – Though our bill to eliminate age cut-offs to qualify for the tax credit died, the budget adds $1M for outreach strategies to increase participation among eligible 25-64 year olds.

$1.645 million: Organic waste management- grants for food for hunger relief (HB 2301) – This bill contains several grant programs related to food waste reduction and composting and largely is funded by last year’s Climate Commitment Act (CCA) — this portion of the bill establishes a grant program administered by WSDA to increase the amount of food that can be purchased directly from producers to distribute through food banks/pantries and ensure that food is not wasted. This funding is not available until Dec. 2024 and depends on WA voters choosing to defeat I-2117, an initiative which would repeal the Climate Commitment Act which funds HB 2301. 

High school students on SNAP qualify for WA College Grant (HB 2214– This bill was scaled back to focus on high school students whose families receive SNAP (rather than all SNAP recipients) to inform them they would be eligible for the WA College Grant. This bill means SNAP functions like direct certification for WCG for high school students as they plan for their future.

DSHS Investments in Improved Access, Service Delivery & Compliance: 

  • $893,000: Replace food and cash benefits that have been stolen by EBT card skimming theft (DSHS – Economic Services Admin)
  • $1.999 million: Implementation of new federal work requirement rules re: increased ABAWD age limits for employment; exemptions from ABAWD employment requirements for veterans, former foster youth and homeless people (DSHS – Economic Services Admin) 
  • $3.603 million: increased staffing at Community Services division to improve access to services (DSHS – Economic Services Admin)
  • $5.538 million: service delivery enhancements to improve access, streamline eligibility/applications and minimize wait times (DSHS – Economic Services Admin)
  • $7.281 million: ACES client database updates

Written by hungerintervention

March 20, 2024

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