As director of Whatcom Homeless Service Center, I'm troubled by the direction our legislature is headed with the state budget. If the Senate has its way, Washington will see deep cuts to safety net programs that keep vulnerable people and families off the streets.
For example, the Senate budget completely eliminates the Aged, Blind, and Disabled program.. This is a very bad idea. It provides modest support for people who are disabled and applying for Social Security's Supplemental Security Income. The state receives approximately $50 million in reimbursement from the federal government for the support this program provides. That's $50 million that will no longer come to the state or this vulnerable population.
The Senate budget also significantly cuts the Housing and Essential Needs program, which provides rent assistance, toiletries and hygiene supplies for disabled people temporarily unable to work. This help really is a lifeline for thousands across the state until they're back on their feet.
The House budget is on the right path. It preserves funding to both these important programs and implements some creative ideas to raise much needed revenue.
I urge Whatcom County legislators to pass a budget that preserves safety net programs and raises revenue. Please don't leave these vulnerable people with nothing. Otherwise, many will show up in much more expensive, publicly funded systems of emergency care.