On April 12, the State Legislature reached agreement on a budget and revenue package, and for the most part, human services were spared from drastic cuts. Legislators were faced with a $2.8 billion shortfall and ended up using a combination of additional federal funds, new tax revenues, budget reserves and targeted program spending cuts to close the gap. Here is a summary of how key health and human services fared in the process:
- GAU now “Disability Lifeline”: General Assistance-Unemployable (GAU) benefits were preserved at lower level than budgeted; the program was also reorganized and renamed “Disability Lifeline”; in one new measure, cash assistance and medical care are now limited to 24 months within a 60-month period, potentially cutting off 1,000 people in King County.
- Housing Trust Fund: $30 million was appropriated for low-income housing instead of the hoped for $100 million; of this amount, $25 million will support workforce housing.
- Early Learning: Four important bills supported early learning, including making voluntary pre-school available to all at-risk three- and four-year-olds by 2018; directing the Department of Early Learning to develop a comprehensive birth-to-three plan, establishing a workgroup to develop a comprehensive plan for a voluntary program of early learning, recognizing that early learning has a major impact on basic education; and, extending the time low-income families can receive state-subsidized child care, starting with children in preschool. Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) was cut by $193,000.
- Basic Health Plan: Fully funded. Some public health programs experienced cuts, including dental programs, tobacco prevention, colon health program.
- Senior Citizens Service Act: Preserved at current funding level.
- Medicaid: Adult Day Health was retained and a slightly lower level. Slight decrease in home care rates and hours for some clients. Case management stays at current rate.