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Monday, March 30, 2009

The state is facing a deep recession and state programs that provide economic security are more important than ever.

In the area of Economic Security, the Senate budget proposal:
• Creates new barriers for families that need assistance in moving into the labor market
• Significantly reduces cash assistance to adults with disabilities that are unable to work

One of the key resources for Washingtonians in poverty is the WorkFirst program. This program is intended to provide cash assistance to families while helping them find and maintain employment. However, the obstacles to finding employment are significant in the current economic climate.

The Senate and the Governor both propose a $68 million cut to the WorkFirst program. The Governor reduces the number of families served, including punitive measures that terminate benefits. The measures the Senate is proposing to reduce funding for WorkFirst are not clear, but both proposals do not respond to the increased need for assistance and the increased difficulty of moving into the labor market. In addition, it is unclear whether this policy change will jeopardize additional federal funds that are assumed elsewhere in the budget.

General Assistance financial benefits for adults who are unable to work because of disability were eliminated in the Governor’s proposal. The Senate has a 15 percent smaller cut, and anticipates 6,000 clients will not be able to receive assistance by the end of the biennium.

As the Budget & Policy Center digs further into the Senate budget proposal we will publish short pieces on each of the following budget areas: economic security, healthy people and the environment, thriving communities and education and opportunity. (See our budget analysis in the Progress Index)

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