Increasing the Economic Security of Washingtonians
In 2017, Washington ranked first in GDP growth in the U.S. But in spite of the good economy, more than 11 percent of the state’s population lives below the federal poverty line. American Indians, Alaska Natives and African Americans experience the highest poverty rates at over 20 percent, and many more people experience economic insecurity.
The federal poverty line is widely recognized as an inadequate measure of economic hardship, and in the last two decades, new measures and tools, including the Self-Sufficiency Standard, ALICE, and Living Wage Calculator, have aimed to overcome these limitations. The story they tell is similar – that for most families, in most places, it takes at least 200 percent of the federal poverty measure to make ends meet and in most communities it takes much more. Thus, the state has pegged its outcome measure to increase the percent of Washingtonians above 200 percent of the federal poverty line.
Healthcare – In 2017, Washington had a 5.5 percent uninsured rate, as compared to 8.6 percent nationwide, which resulted in about 400,000 people uninsured. Medicaid is an important factor in economic stability.
Rental housing availability – In 2016, Washington had a 3.2 percent rental vacancy rate, which is lower than the seven percent vacancy rate considered the balanced or “natural” state. The rental vacancy rate is based on the percentage of all available units in a rental property that are vacant or unoccupied at a particular time.
Living wage jobs – Higher wages allow individuals and families to better support themselves and their communities, as well as help reduce poverty, increase the purchasing power of workers, reduce housing instability, and reduce expenses for government programs. Employment support, training and education help people secure higher-paying jobs.
Income supports – Many federal benefits not only reduce poverty, but also have a multiplier effect on the local economy. Programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) contribute directly and indirectly to family economic security and regional growth. The Internal Revenue Service estimates suggest that 20 percent of eligible taxpayers, do not claim EITC, leaving millions of dollars on the table.
The programs and services listed below are a sample of statewide activities that focus both on providing the safety net assistance to families, as well as preventing the conditions which negatively affects their economic security.