At the time of writing, this is the 37th day of the sixty-day 2022 Washington State Legislative Session. What follows is an update on Food Lifeline’s 2022 Advocacy Agenda and our priorities that are currently in motion. Legislative session ends on March 10.
Equity & Social Justice
HB 1264 – Establishing an equity impact statement for legislative proposals, by Representative My-Linh Thai (SB 5274, by Senator Bob Hasegawa). With the Washington State Office of Equity up and running, we are eager to realize additional equity measures, like HB 1264, come into place.
STATUS: Died in Committee.
SB 5438 – Providing unemployment benefits to workers who are unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and not eligible for unemployment benefits due to immigration status, by Senator Rebecca Saldaña. This bill would help reduce the poverty rate of the immigrant community in Washington as the pandemic has left many who work in low-wage industries unemployed.
STATUS: Died in Committee. Feb 2, Public hearing in the Senate Committee on Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs.
SB 5793 – Concerning stipends for low-income or underrepresented community members of state boards, commissions, councils, committees, and other similar groups, by Senator Claire Wilson.
STATUS: Feb 10, Passed by Senate Floor vote 31-18. Sent to House. Feb 17, Scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Relations at 10 AM.
A measure that we are opposing is HB 2037 – Modifying the standard for use of force by peace officers, by Representative Roger Goodman. We prefer the previously passed higher standard which has shown results in fewer fatal encounters for Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.
STATUS: Feb 12, Passed by Floor vote of 87-11. Sent to Senate, Law & Justice Committee.
Equity & Social Justice Budget Asks
Extend Basic Food Ed & Training to immigrants receiving Food Assistance – Immigrants who receive state-funded Food Assistance should have equal access to job training and education opportunities that help lift families out of poverty and into living wage jobs. We are supporting the $560,000 requested in the Governor’s budget.
A bill to make technical fixes to the Working Families Tax Credit that passed last session, HB 1888, by Representative My-Linh Thai. Starting in 2023, the Working Families Tax Credit program will provide payments ranging from $300 to $1,200 to low-to-moderate income individuals who meet certain eligibility requirements. This is to address Washington’s regressive, up-side-down tax code.
STATUS: Feb 8, Passed House floor vote, 87-9. Sent to the Senate, referred to Ways & Means.
SB 5838, by Senator T’wina Nobles (HB 1947, Representative Noel Frame), Providing a monthly diaper subsidy for parents or other caregivers receiving temporary assistance for needy families. Helping mothers experiencing deep poverty with this very helpful benefit is very needed.
STATUS: Feb 10, Passed in the Senate by a Floor vote of 48-1. Sent to House. Feb 18, Scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Housing, Human Services & Veterans at 10:00 AM.
Similarly, there’s also HB 1755, Concerning temporary assistance for needy families time limit extensions during times of high unemployment, by Representative Strom Peterson. As the title suggests, the bill would allow for an extension to the program’s five-year limit when the most recently published state unemployment rate is 7 percent or higher. We support this bill for the important help it provides to families with children dealing with deep poverty.
STATUS: Feb 17, Scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation at 1:30 PM.
We also support extending Transitional Food Assistance to more families leaving TANF (SB 5785) and ending the 60 month time limit for “TANF for children” and very low income families who face hardship (e.g. homelessness) or are meeting all program requirements (HB 2048).
HB 2075 – Establishing service requirements for the department of social and health services, by Representative Strom Peterson. This bill would ensure DSHS’ local Community Service Offices and call centers must be available and accessible for people in need of services to meet their basic needs.
HB 1799, Concerning organic materials management, by Representative Joe Fitzgibbon, is a bill focused on reducing methane produced by landfills – which is primarily caused by organic material, like food waste and yard waste. One of many strategies it takes is to set conditions to encourage more food donation to food banks. It would create a “Washington Center for Sustainable Food Management” to help coordinate, support, and align food donation efforts, and coordinate statewide food waste reduction. And it would update the Washington State Good Samaritan Act to broaden liability protections in place to encourage more food donation.
STATUS: Feb 11, Passed House by Floor vote of 56-42; sent to the Senate. Feb 17, Scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy & Technology at 10:30 AM.
Food Systems Budget Asks
STATUS: Consideration of Operating and Capital budget bills begins after February 28, the last day to pass bills out of committee and read them into the record on the floor from House fiscal committees and Senate Ways & Means and Transportation committees.
“We Feed WA” is the Washington State Department of Agriculture program that purchase local produce for emergency food boxes and bulk produce, both for hunger relief agencies in the state. Funding requested for this program is indispensable to helping the state continue its recovery from the pandemic. It supports local Washington farmers and people benefit from the wonderful food they produce.
We are supporting the Governor’s budget request and add $15 million to the current fiscal year budget and an additional $43 million to fiscal year 2023. In addition, we are supporting the WSDA’s Resiliency & Capacity grants request for $17.125M. These funds would help hunger relief agencies across the state build additional capacity to serve their communities.
Hunger and Health
We are supporting a $400,000 budget request to expand the Washington Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. The modest investment sought will help provide nutrition assistance to 7,100 more lower income adults over 60.
Nutrition Assistance / School Meals
One of the most important child hunger bills this session deals with K-12 school meals and Community Eligibility expansion, HB 1878, by Representative Marcus Riccelli (SB 5798, Senator Claire Wilson). This bill would expand our state’s participation in a federal nutrition program that would qualify more than 95,000 additional students for federally reimbursed school meals (meaning no cost to the student).
STATUS: Feb 10, Passed in the House by Floor vote of 93-3. Sent to the Senate. Feb 12, First reading, referred to Early Learning & K-12 Education.
We support improving and easing access to school meal applications as proposed by HB 1833, School meals/online application, by Representative April Berg. This bill will make it easier for parents statewide to apply for school nutrition programs on-line and in their language – barriers that have prevented many families from accessing important benefits. And it will make managing the data easier for schools.
STATUS: Feb 11, Passed House floor by vote 92-4. Sent to the Senate. Feb 18, Scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education at 8 AM.
Taken together, these bills would vastly expand the number of students qualifying for and accessing school nutrition assistance.
Other bills we’re tracking that have a connection to our mission work (not an exhaustive list):
HB 1592 – Concerning military spouse employment, by Representative Mari Leavitt.
STATUS: Feb 11, Rules Committee relieved of further consideration. Placed on second reading.
HB 1781 – Concerning the capital budget, by Representative Steve Tharinger.