At the time of writing, this is the eighteenth 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.
At this stage in the legislative process, policy bills are making their way through assigned committee hearings. Some of our priorities are budget requests only and state operating budget development happens later in session. So for now, please see below for highlights on bills that are moving with more detail to be added as session continues:
Nutrition Assistance / School Meals – Public hearings have been held for Community Eligibility expansion, HB 1878, by Representative Marcus Riccelli (SB 5798, Senator Claire Wilson). This bill would qualify more students for federally reimbursed school meals (meaning no cost to the student). Also, we support improving/easing access to school meal applications with HB 1833, School meals/online application, by Representative April Berg. Taken together, these bills would vastly expand the number of students qualifying for and accessing school nutrition assistance.
Poverty – A bill to tweak the Working Families Tax Credit, HB 1888, by Representative My-Linh Thai was heard today. This is another example of one or our advocacy agenda priorities starting its way through session. It’s a technical fix, but it is accompanied by a budget ask to fund outreach/awareness toward implementation of the credit. This way, more people who qualify for the credit can be notified and encouraged to take advantage of the program. We also favor, HB 1947, Representative Noel Frame (SB 5838, by Senator T’wina Nobles), 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. Similarly, there’s also HB 1755, Concerning temporary assistance for needy families time limit extensions during times of high unemployment, by Representative Strom Peterson.
Racial Equity – we are hopeful for, but have yet to see movement on 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. One 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.
Food Systems – HB 1799, Concerning organic materials management, by Representative Joe Fitzgibbon, is a bill with components that seek to improve the amount of safe, nutritious food that is sent to food banks instead of landfills. It comports with a previous measure, the Wasted Food Reduction Act of 2019, that similarly seeks to bolster the state’s ability to increase hunger relief system capacity and food donation. Among other things, HB 1799 would create a Washington Center for Sustainable Food Management to help coordinate, support, and align food donation efforts, and coordinate statewide food waste reduction. Food Systems Budget asks – “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.
Hunger and Health – We are supporting a 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.
Other bills we’re tracking that have a connection to our mission work (not an exhaustive list):
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.
HB 1592 – Concerning military spouse employment, by Representative Mari Leavitt.
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 Saldana.
HB 1781 – Concerning the capital budget, by Representative Steve Tharinger.