OLYMPIA – Washington State continues to recover from the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19, but the recovery has not benefited all sectors of society.
Now Washington officials are looking at new steps and approaches to poverty reduction, including finding new ways to measure economic recovery and inequality, and to amplify the voice of communities that are often excluded from such policies.
The State Department of Human Services and Health is requesting $ 630,000 in new funding for four new employees for “an emerging public-private partnership to define, measure, and enhance accountability for a fair and equitable future.”
As requested, the budget request will fund the project manager, engagement coordinator, data scientist, and data analyst and visualization specialist.
“Historically, traditional economic recovery measures mask inequalities in social and economic well-being, leading to pernicious narratives and insufficient investment in equitable social, economic and health outcomes,” the budget request said. “A new vision of a just economic recovery is required, as well as a new approach to defining, measuring and strengthening accountability for a just and equitable future.”
Staff will work, inter alia, with the Poverty Reduction Working Group convened by Gov. Jay Inslee in 2017, as well as the new state’s Justice Department.
In an email, Inslee spokeswoman Tara Lee wrote that “the poverty reduction efforts will be part of the Governor’s 2022 budget proposal, which is now being finalized and will launch in mid-December.”
The request for the upcoming additional state budget comes as Democrats in Congress are pushing for a new social spending bill. Called the Better Recovery Act, the law will provide universal preschool education and a broader range of childcare and affordable housing.
According to the DSHS budget request, approximately 1.75 million children and adults in Washington – a state of 7.7 million – live below 200% of the federal poverty line. For a family of four, this corresponds to an annual income of no more than $ 53,000.
If funded, the DSHS project, as requested by the agency, will help “provide a shared vision and definition of what a ‘just economic recovery’ and a ‘fair and equitable future’ mean as a starting point for collaboration and discussion.”
The request comes from a working group that released a 10-year plan in January called “End Poverty”. His recommendations include decriminalizing poverty, expanding economic opportunities and tackling structural racism.
The DSHS budget request aims to help this 10-year plan address intergenerational poverty, according to Jim Baumgart, senior political adviser at Inslee.
The DSHS request may not look exactly the same in the budget that Inslee is proposing in the coming weeks, Baumgart said.
To better tackle poverty requires staff who study economic data and are available, for example, to review new programs in other states or countries, to see if they can work in Washington.
“You have to have data analysis,” said Baumgart, a member of the working group. “You have to have people who have the time and vision to look wider across the country and elsewhere.
With a resurgence in state tax levies and billions of dollars in federal COVID aid, lawmakers in the Washington Democratic legislature poured money into a series of economic aid efforts last winter. These include additional childcare costs and, finally, funding a long-standing tax break for working families.
As tax collection continues to rise, lawmakers will begin a short 60-day legislative session in January without worrying about budget cuts.
In response to rising taxes, Senator Linda Wilson of Vancouver called on Democrats to help residents in another way: lower government sales taxes or taxes on manufacturers and homeowners.
At the same time, a Social Spending bill being drafted by Democrats in Congress could bring additional relief if the small Democratic majority can negotiate with President Joe Biden.
The version of the Build Back Better plan, which was passed by the US House of Representatives this month, included hundreds of billions of dollars in universal preschools and funding to expand childcare programs, according to US Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Office in Seattle.
The House bill also includes $ 11.7 billion in affordable housing that will help build 27,000 housing units in Washington state, US Senator Maria Cantwell, Washington, said earlier this month.
US Congresswoman Katie McMorris Rogers, R-Spokane, detonated the package the day it passed.
“These multimillion-dollar taxes and rising costs are an unprecedented push to tighten government control over our lives, burdening our children with debt they can never pay,” McMorris Rogers said in a statement.