Washington State House Democrats


Rep. Sells’ 2/9/18 Update: Town Hall Audio / Homeless Students / Lottery $ / Student Loans

TTH audio 38

Telephone Town Hall Audio Available

My colleagues, Senator John McCoy, Representative June Robinson, and I hosted a telephone town hall last week.

I want to thank the almost 500 of you who got on the call for taking the time, and for your interest in what we’re doing in Olympia. Over the course of one hour, we took 17 questions on numerous issues.

If you were not able to join us, CLICK HERE for the audio file.

Helping Homeless Students

Last week, many of you who participated in our telephone town hall asked about homelessness. In Snohomish County, homelessness is a serious problem. According to the 2017 Snohomish County Annual Point-In-Time Count, there has been an overall increase of 50 percent in unsheltered homeless persons surveyed since 2013. In 2017 alone, there was a 9 percent increase over 2016.

Homelessness is a growing reality. How do we get people from the main streets into the mainstream? One of the ways to do that is through education.

I sponsored HB 2854, which would create four pilot programs across the state to help homeless students. Some of the proposed services include a case management program to help students find housing, meal plans, and stipends for clothing, laundry, and showers.

To truly provide access to higher education, we need to meet the needs of students from many different backgrounds including homeless college students, who face numerous hurdles. The goal of this bill is to determine the best way to help homeless students overcome some of those obstacles and focus on their education.

While the House bill didn’t make it out of the Appropriations committee before the fiscal cutoff, the Senate version is still alive. I certainly hope to see SB 6262 move through the legislative process to become law.

In addition to this work, we were able to get two key resources for homeless folks in our district funded through the capital budget:

$2.7 million for the construction of the HopeWorks TOD Center in Everett. This project will create 65 affordable apartments for low-income residents of Snohomish County, a community hub, and food-focused social enterprises offering culinary training programs, career counseling, and opportunities for last employment.

$1 million to Cocoon House for the re-development of its main center, which includes the creation of a full-service drop-in center and an additional 12 beds. This will also create an opportunity for the agency to serve a broader age span (ages 15 – 24).

Where do Lottery dollars go?

One of the questions I get frequently—in fact, some of you asked about it in our last telephone town hall—is where the lottery money goes. So here’s the information:

Washington’s Lottery players took home $422.5 million last year. The remaining lottery proceeds help fund and support people and communities all over the state.

Most of the funds go to the Washington Opportunity Pathways Account (WOPA), which supports programs such as the State Need Grant, the State Work Study program and early learning.  The rest covers the cost of sales, pays the retailer commissions, contributes funding for the CenturyLink Stadium, the State General Fund and administration expenses, and less than 1 percent goes to economic development projects, the Gambling Commission and problem-gambling programs.

lottery dollars

This graphic shows statistics and figures from the 2017 Washington’s Lottery Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

Addressing Student Loans

Too many people are struggling under the weight of student loan debt. Student loan borrowers in Washington now owe a staggering $24 billion. That’s an average of around $25,000 per borrower.

student loans bill of rights stonier

I am supporting two bills that address this problem:

The Student Loan Bill of Rights, which will protect borrowers from harmful and predatory business practices, and create an advocacy office that looks out for student borrowers.  Click on the image on the right for a video of my colleague, Rep. Monica Stonier, discussing this legislation.

The Student Opportunity, Assistance, and Relief Act (SOAR), which will bring much needed student debt relief to Washington professionals.  If you have a professional license and you miss a student loan payment, our state can revoke your license, taking away your ability to pay your loan. Also, 25 percent of your income can be garnished, making it even harder to pay your rent and support your family. This bill takes care of these issues by allowing you to keep your license so you can continue working, and it reduces the amount that can be garnished so you can pay your bills and your loan.

Thanks for reading my newsletter. Contact my office if you need additional information on these or other legislative issues, or if you want to give me feedback.


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