United Way's legislative priorities fare well in Olympia
United Way of Snohomish County's legislative priorities fared well in the 2013 legislative session and special session. The Legislature finished their work on the budget in a special session that ended on June 30.
The organization's legislative priorities for 2013 focused on early learning, hunger, homelessness and seniors.
"It was a long session and special session," said Katrina Ondracek, vice president of Public Policy and Community Initiatives. "For the most part, funding for the issues we supported was preserved or even increased. We didn't get everything we wanted, but we are definitely pleased."
The non-profit's priorities were chosen after several months of deliberations and careful consideration by United Way's vision councils, public policy committee, board of directors and other volunteer committees.
"We worked with a broad range of human services organizations from Snohomish County and throughout the state," Ondracek said. "Our Lobby Day in February was particularly important. Legislators need to hear directly from their constituents – it's an important part of the process."
Here are the organization's priorities and how they fared during the 2013 legislative session:
Quality early learning
Priority: Provide funding to support opportunities that ensure children are ready to succeed in school and life.
Legislators increased funding for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, made it easier to enroll in the Working Connections Child Care program and increased the number of kids who participate in the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), ensuring they are ready for school and that school is ready for them.
Priority: Preserve food programs that keep children and adults from going hungry and being malnourished.
Legislators increased funding for state food assistance to legal immigrants. In the last budget, this program was reduced by 50 percent. In this new two-year budget, the funding was increased to 75 percent of the earlier level.
Housing and homelessness
Priority: Maintain funding to support affordable housing and options that move people out of homelessness.
Legislators preserved funding for the Housing Trust Fund and the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) program, formerly called "Disability Lifeline."
Support for Seniors
Priority: Maintain funding to support senior information and assistance, transportation and caregiver support.
Legislators preserved funding for the Senior Citizens Services Act. Funding for other services of specific interest to seniors, such as long-term care programs were also maintained.
There were several other issues that United Way followed closely in the legislature this year:
Education: Although the budget included $1.03 billion for K-12 education, there were no COLA increases for teachers and several other important K-12 budget items did not get funded.
Medicaid: An additional 300,000 people will get healthcare benefits, primarily through federal funding.
Payday loans: A payday loan product with extremely high interest rates opposed by United Way and other consumer advocates was defeated.
2-1-1: Funding for the Washington Information Network 2-1-1 call system was maintained at $1 million.
Foster care: More children who age out of the foster care system will be able to stay in the system for a few additional years, until they reach the age of 21.
Transportation: Legislators failed to pass a statewide transportation package. United Way worked closely with Community Transit and Economic Alliance Snohomish County on projects of specific interest to Snohomish County.
For more information and updates on these and other issues related to United Way's advocacy efforts, visit www.uwsc.org/advocate.php.
United Way is a community impact organization serving Snohomish County for more than 70 years.
In addition to funding 107 programs through 40 agencies with a special focus on local health and human services, United Way of Snohomish County supports a number of initiatives focused on education, financially stable families, a youth volunteering program, North Sound 211 and an emerging initiative in survival English.
To find out more about United Way of Snohomish County, including how you can find help, how to volunteer and how United Way serves our community, visit uwsc.org.