Strong turnout, productive conversation at town hall
A big thank you to the over 200 people who attended last Saturday’s legislative town hall meeting hosted by Rep. Ormsby, Sen. Billig and me.
We provided an overview of 2018 session highlights and the supplemental state budget, followed by Q&A. Questions from attendees covered topics like civic education, voter access, housing and health care needs, school violence/bullying, tax reform and environmental issues, among others.
Read below for a couple of questions we didn’t get to during the event.
If you wrote a question on a card that was not answered and left contact information, I will be following up with you. If you weren’t able to attend the town hall and want information about a legislative issue, please reach out to me at my contact info below. I look forward to hearing from you!
Question: Long-term care funding
One question we got on Saturday was the following: “Financing for long-term care did not pass this session. What are the next steps or long range plans for financing/sustainable funding?”
This issue is very real for families across our district, across our state, and across the nation. Every day, an average of 10,000 people in the United States turn 65 – a pace expected to continue for the next two decades.
Most people will eventually need long-term care services, including help with bathing, dressing, toileting, and eating. Yet here in Washington state, people can’t afford the care they need.
A bipartisan bill introduced in the House this session would create a long-term care insurance benefit to help seniors and their families pay for long-term care services and supports.
It advanced out the Health Care & Wellness committee (where I voted in favor of it), but didn’t get a vote before the full house. The bill attracted national attention because many states are grappling with this issue and Washington has an opportunity to lead the way on solutions.
While this particular bill did not pass this year, I am certain the issue will once again be under consideration by lawmakers next year. I am in favor of a sustainable solution that helps seniors and the over 850,000 unpaid family caregivers in our state struggling to take care of loved ones.
This is also critical for our state budget: Without something like a long-term care insurance program, state spending on Medicaid long-term care will more than double from $1.7 billion in 2015 to $4.1 billion by 2030.
Question: Making higher ed more affordable and accessible
We received several questions at the town hall about college affordability, and what can be done to ensure more people have access to higher education opportunities they can afford and that prepare them for good-paying jobs. I’m pleased to say the 2018 legislative session had several big successes in this area, including:
- Eliminating the wait list for the State Need Grant: Over the next four years, the state is on track to fully eliminate the wait list for the State Need Grant, Washington’s principal financial aid program. A $116 million investment during the current four-year budgeting period will erase three quarters of that backlog. The remaining quarter is set to be eliminated by 2021. Because of this, nearly 5000 more students who would otherwise have to forgo college or incur debt will be able to access the State Need Grant over the next year – great news for families across our state.
- Expanding the Opportunity Scholarship Program: Opportunity Scholarships help low- and middle-income Washingtonians earn degrees in high-demand fields like science, technology, engineering, math and health care. This year, the program is expanded to include students pursuing professional-technical certificates and two-year degrees, not just four-year degrees.
- Opening up more pathways to careers for students with little or no resources: The state’s successful Passport to College Promise program is expanded to include apprenticeships in addition to college. Eligibility in the program is also expanded to include those who have experienced homelessness as well as foster youth.
It’s an honor to serve you.
Representative Marcus Riccelli
3rd Legislative District – Spokane