The following letter, and letters of support, were submitted to Governor Jay Inslee on May 12, 2020. Click the links at the bottom of the page to read the individual letters.
Dear Governor Inslee,
The Departments of Commerce, Employment Security, and Social & Health Services recently shared with you a draft 10-Year Plan to Reduce Poverty and Inequality for Washington state. As you know, the strategies and recommendations in this plan include input from a diverse set of partners from state entities, legislators, tribal nations, community-based organizations, employers and funders, in the fields of early learning, K-12, higher education, health, human services, housing, workforce development, business, juvenile and criminal justice and the child welfare system. We are proud to share the enclosed letters of support from Poverty Reduction Work Group partners – including our sister state agencies DCYF, HCA, DOH, and OSPI – and encourage decision-makers to use the 10-Year Plan in state economic recovery efforts.
When we completed this draft in February 2020, we were not yet aware of the havoc COVID-19 would wreak on the social and economic well-being of Washingtonians. Conservative estimates show that over 1.8 million Washingtonians – over 500,000 of them children – had difficulty making ends meet before COVID-19. With the steep rise in unemployment, emerging estimates show that poverty could reach its highest level in 50 years and significantly deepen racial and geographic inequality. The focus on reducing poverty and inequality is more urgent than ever.
History shows that times of profound disruption are followed by significant social, cultural, and political change. This time will be no different, and the timely release of the 10-Year Plan serves as a blueprint for what an equitable and robust economic recovery could look like. The plan contains 56 recommendations in the following eight strategies:
Understand structural racism and historical trauma, and take action to undo their harmful effects in policy and programs.
Make equal space in decision-making for people and communities most affected by poverty and inequality.
Target equitable education, income growth, and wealth-building opportunities for people with low incomes.
Strengthen health supports across the life span to promote the intergenerational well-being of families.
Address the urgent needs of people experiencing homelessness, violence, mental illness, and/or addiction.
Build an integrated human service continuum of care that addresses the holistic needs of children, adults, and families.
Decriminalize poverty and reduce reliance on the child welfare, juvenile justice, and criminal justice systems.
Ensure a just and equitable transition to the future of work.
 Parolin, Z. & Christopher Wimer (April 2020) Forecasting Estimates of Poverty during the COVID-19 Crisis. Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University Policy Brief available for download here
The process for developing these recommendations was data-driven and grounded in evidence, and most importantly informed by a Steering Committee consisting of people experiencing poverty, whose expertise guided our priorities and ensured our commitment to racial equity was authentic and actionable. Our agencies are working together on shared legislative and non-legislative actions we can take to implement these strategies and recommendations. As poverty and inequality soar in the wake of COVID-19, including the children, adults, families, businesses, and communities most affected in policy, program, and funding decisions will remain a priority for us.
These are unprecedented times, but there is reason for hope. As the leaders of cabinet-level agencies we have seen courageous leadership and collaboration among our colleagues across all systems and sectors involved in the emergency response to the COVID-19 crisis, and are inspired daily by the fierce dedication of our staff to serve. Your Safe Start framework recognizes that reducing poverty and inequality is critical for our collective well-being as a state. And we have a 10-Year Plan to guide us along the way, with strong support from a diverse group of agencies and organizations critical to our economic recovery. There is always opportunity in a crisis – now is the time to build an equitable, inclusive economy that benefits all Washingtonians.
It is an honor to be a part of this effort and we are thankful to you for making poverty reduction a priority. As co-lead agencies, standing side-by-side with the Steering Committee and the full PRWG, we commit to bringing this plan to action and working together to ensure that all Washingtonians live with the dignity of having their foundational needs met and access to the building blocks of opportunity essential for reaching their full potential in life.
Suzi LeVine, Commissioner
Lisa Brown, Director
Cheryl Strange, Secretary
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