Department of Revenue Interviews DSHS Sr. Poverty Director on Working Family Tax Credit

The Department of Revenue (DOR) recently launched the Working Families Tax Credit to help low-to-moderate income families in Washington State. Since then, more than 120,000 Washingtonians have submitted applications for the credit, and more than $41 million has been dispersed to families and individuals!

As partners in this work, DOR recently sat down with Poverty Reduction Work Group member Lori Pfingst to hear her thoughts on the WFTC and to discuss the importance of continued collaboration between government agencies in eliminating poverty. Pfingst is also the Senior Director for Poverty with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Here’s what she had to say.

This work has a lot of moving parts and collaboration. If you could express one key takeaway, what would it be?

The main takeaway from this work is that it is possible to end poverty in Washington and people experiencing it are key to making it happen. When one in three of our neighbors needs health and human services every year, it is a sign of system failure, not personal failure. But the “system” can be changed – it is built on the decisions that people make every day. What was effective about the collaboration we built is that we paired smart, passionate government and community leaders with people experiencing poverty to chart a new course.

How long have you been working on this project and how are you feeling about the momentum and progress?

The Poverty Reduction Work Group began in 2018 and has gained considerable momentum. Since the submission of the 10-Year Plan in 2021, 70 policy, program and funding actions have been taken to advance the 60 recommendations in the 10-Year Plan. These actions are laying a strong foundation to sustain the state’s focus on poverty reduction, while making strategic investments to ensure all Washingtonians have what they need to reach their full potential. Highlights include making child care and health care more affordable and available, increases in cash assistance and improved access to human services, compensating people with lived experience, investments to build affordable housing and a more equitable tax system. For the current legislative session, state agencies used the plan to develop their 2023-25 poverty-related budget and policy requests in partnership with people experiencing poverty, community organizations and advocates. Governor Inslee included over $1 billion in his proposed budget to advance strategies in the 10-year plan.

We are grateful for the progress made so far, but ever mindful of how much work remains. Having agencies like DOR partner in the work with us will be essential to sustain and accelerate momentum.

What are you most hopeful for as far as DOR’s involvement and the Working Families Tax Credit?

It is no secret that Washington has the most regressive tax system in the nation. We tax people with low incomes more than any other state, and we rely on those with the least amount of resources to fund the public goods our residents and economy need to prosper. The Working Families Tax Credit and the recent federal Child Tax Credit are great examples of how tax policy can make a difference for people experiencing poverty and allow more families to make ends meet.  We are excited to have the great minds at DOR partner with us on how the tax system can contribute to poverty reduction and build shared prosperity for generations to come.

How can the community learn more or get involved?

There are many ways you can get involved! Read the 10-Year Plan, check out our Action Toolkit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Better yet, reach out to Alex Panagotacos, our new Director of Strategic Partnerships, to explore ways for you and your teams to contribute to the work ( | 360-763-2900).

Anything else you’d like to add?

Recent data from Child Trends, a research organization focused on child well-being, shows what’s possible when we work together to achieve big, bold goals. Over the last quarter-century, child poverty has decreased by 67% in Washington, largely due to the web of health and human service programs that make up the safety net, including tax credits. The greatest gains have occurred since 2015, when Washington State’s poverty reduction efforts began.

We can do this. Our strategic focus and investments in poverty reduction are working and the more agencies align toward achieving shared results, the closer we will get to Washington being a place where everyone can reach their full potential. We’re thrilled to have DOR as a partner in the work!

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