Legislators shouldn’t brag about cutting government when the state is not doing enough to protect vulnerable kids and adults.
EVERY day we negotiate the budget in Olympia, we’re deciding what kind of a future we want for Washington state.
In one Washington, abused kids and foster children are protected and cared for, adults with developmental disabilities have a home and medical care, and families have access to the help they need but can’t afford — whether it is job training, substance abuse treatment or housing. In the other Washington, vulnerable children and adults go without, and we all suffer the consequences.
I don’t want to live in a state where politicians brag about cutting government and handing out new tax breaks while kids and vulnerable adults pay the price of years of cuts and neglect.
Thousands of developmentally disabled individuals live in supported-living homes in our communities. Due to underfunding, many of these homes can’t hire new staff at minimum wage and are unable to take more residents. There are hundreds of empty beds in our communities because providers can’t hire staff, but more than 200 developmentally disabled individuals needing placement can’t get the help they need.
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Group homes for foster children are closing because they have not had rate increases since 2008. The state has been sued because foster-care children are drifting between homes waiting for permanent placement. Impossible mountains of foster-care and CPS caseloads are not getting the attention they need because there are simply not enough case workers.
I support the state House’s budget that would restore more than $12 million in our foster-care system and more than $7 million in staffing for Child Protective Services because we need humans to answer the phone, investigate cases with urgency and find loving homes for children. The state Senate’s budget would not fund new CPS workers to handle the increase in calls and cases or a vendor rate increase for providers who are closing group homes.
We want kids to succeed in school, but one in five kids goes to school hungry. A record number of school-age children — more than 30,000 — are homeless. If we’re going to do better with education, we must fix these problems. Because hungry kids can’t learn and it’s hard to do homework when you don’t have a home.
The House budget would restore $11.2 million to our state’s food banks to feed hungry kids, families and seniors, and starts reinvesting in our safety net. The House puts $16.5 million to work to get homeless kids and families off the street, and get them back to work and on their own again.
The Senate budget would weaken our already tattered safety net — yet some might brag about a “no-new-taxes” budget. That’s like cutting funding to a fire department but complaining loudly about overstretched firefighters not being able to respond quickly. That’s what years of budget cuts have done to our safety net, but the difference is the House has a plan to fix it.
When a woman beaten by her husband calls 911, or you call Child Protective Service to report abuse you see in the home next door, somebody has to be on the other end of the line. You can’t get a busy signal or voice mail. It has to be a human.
When a disabled person needs help, or a child is sick, hungry or homeless, it’s our duty to help them.
What kind of Washington do you want to live in?
Please call 800-562-6000 or email your representatives and senator at leg.wa.gov. Tell them to reject using cuts and gimmicks to build a budget and instead pass a plan that would help every Washingtonian get a fair shot.