It’s the worst we’ve seen.
That’s our assessment of new cuts to state services. The across-the-board budget reductions are more severe than anything we’ve experienced recently. They’re also being made in an extremely challenging context.
The budget that was finalized this spring, during the last legislative session, did not anticipate the persistently slow economy. And, rather than our elected representatives deliberating in public over cuts, these decisions are being made by the Governor in consultation with agency secretaries and assistant secretaries. They are decisions as momentous as any made during the last legislative session, only without legislators convening to hear and represent their constituents’ concerns.Here’s what we’ve identified as some of the most imminent threats to vital services for kids and their families:
The state Department of Social and Health Services is eliminating the State Food Assistance program, which enrolls eligible families in Food Stamps if they legally reside in the state but are not yet U.S. citizens. Right now, about 13,000 families are getting Food Stamps through State Food Assistance; without it, these families – who are far more likely to be families of color – would be both hungrier and more economically insecure.
The Department of Social and Health Services is proposing to reduce eligibility to Apple Health for Kids. Apple Health’s coverage has provided a lifeline to families who have lost jobs and, with them, employer-based insurance; cutting it would deal a serious blow to our commitment to covering all kids. DSHS is proposing to eliminate coverage for 27,000 children effective March 1. The move would require legislators’ approval once they convene in January.
The state is also proposing to eliminate the Maternity Support Services program, which has helped at-risk mothers-to-be deliver healthy babies. Maternity Support Services also allows nutritionists to offer WIC to pregnant women.
The state’s child care subsidy program, Working Connections, makes work pay by helping low-income parents afford to leave their young children with a professional caregiver for the day. A 6 percent cut to the program takes effect today, Oct. 1; it eliminates the subsidy for 2,500 families. Two more cuts loom: first come across-the-board state cuts; then, unless Congress returns in a lame-duck session to pass a TANF emergency measure, welfare funds statewide will lose an additional $62 million. A big percentage of that is expected to come out of Working Connections.
These decisions are most harmful to poor families, and they come at a time when more children are growing up in deep poverty. For them, the recession leaves its mark, in the form of persistent health and learning difficulties and a widened achievement gap.
And these conditions particularly impact communities of color. According to this week’s numbers from the Census Bureau, one in three Black and one in four Latino and Native American kids in Washington are now living below the poverty line – versus one in 10 white kids.
As bad as these cuts are, they will be worse if we fail to act. Two things need to happen.
- We should encourage legislators to do a full review of these cuts and implement alternative priorities that protect kids and families
- This election really matters. We have taken stands on six measures that appear on this fall’s ballot. By voting with kids in mind, we can make a big difference. Please go to our Elections page, pledge your vote, and share our message with your friends. Together, we can make a difference.