Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Tuesday, we reached another important cutoff in the Legislature: House of Origin cutoff. This is the deadline by which bills have to be voted off the floor of the chamber in which they were introduced in order to keep moving forward this session (with a few exceptions). As such, I wanted to give you a quick update on a few key pieces of legislation, sponsored by your 41st Legislative District Representatives, that passed the last day: the Fair Start for Kids Act and the Working Families Tax Exemption.
Giving our kids a fair start in life
I’m happy to report that earlier this week, the House passed my bill to address the child care crisis in Washington state, the Fair Start for Kids Act, on a bipartisan vote of 58-38!
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the child care industry was already in crisis. According to a report published by the Association of Washington Business, the child care crisis costs Washington businesses $2 billion a year, while working parents forgo $14 billion a year in lost wages due to the lack of child care access. In the wake of the pandemic, the problem has been exacerbated with huge numbers of parents, especially women, leaving the workforce or reducing hours due to limited access to child care.
Three years ago, we passed strong equal pay laws for women. But if women can’t even enter or stay in the workforce due to a lack of child care, then we are moving backward in a huge way. Sadly, that is exactly what we are seeing during this ‘she-cession.’
In order to restart our state’s economy, we have to invest in child care. Parents can’t rejoin the work force until they have child care, businesses can’t reopen until their workers have a safe and affordable place to take their kids, and all kids deserve a fair start.
The Fair Start for Kids Act is a multi-faceted approach to solving the child care crisis, addressing racial inequity for providers and families, and helping the economy. The bill aims to:
- Sustain and expand the diverse child care workforce by increasing subsidy rates and expanding access to health care for child care providers;
- Make child care more affordable by reducing families’ copays and increasing eligibility for Working Connections Child Care and the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP);
- Support the expansion of child care by making capital investments to build and expand facilities, as well as increase access to technical assistance for child cares and business; and
- Strengthen prevention and intervention services by expanding access to mental health consultation, home visits, equity grants, dual language supports and other early intervention services…and more.
Accessible, affordable, high-quality child care is the key to restarting our economy, getting parents back to work, and giving our kids a fair start in life. By investing in child care, and therefore in our children, we are making an investment in the future of Washington state.
The bill is now under consideration in the Senate, and I will keep you updated as it continues to move through the legislative process.
The Working Families Tax Exemption
The last bill voted off the House floor before Tuesday’s cutoff was the Working Families Tax Exemption, which would mean greater financial stability for over 400,000 taxpayers in our state, making them eligible for a credit between $500 and $950. This would put more money directly into the pockets of these working families, and is a critical tool to help families at the lowest end of the income spectrum who pay a lot of sales tax. Congrats to my seatmate, Rep. My-Linh Thai, on the passage of her bill that will help so many struggling families!
Thank you for participating in our Virtual Town Hall!
Thank you to all who joined us for our first-ever virtual town hall last night! Sen. Wellman, Rep. Thai and I were glad to see so many in the 41st District take the time to submit questions and engage with us.
Some of the topics covered included climate change legislation, police accountability and reforms, vaccine distribution and access, child care, ranked choice voting, addressing our state’s regressive tax structure, affordable housing and homelessness, and more. If you were not able to attend online yesterday, you can still watch the entire town hall on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. Please note, you do not need an account to view the livestreams.
While the virtual town hall format worked well and I’m pleased with the amount of engagement we received, nothing compares to coming together as a community in person. I am hopeful that will be the case for next year’s town hall.
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me this session with your questions, concerns, or comments. We will get through these hardest of times together.
Rep. Tana Senn