Olympia Update: Major changes expected for students experiencing homelessness

Published: April 22, 2019

By Megan Veith

It’s been a very active legislative session, and the Building Changes policy team has been deeply engaged in advocating for several important education-focused policies. One of our main priority items, the Homeless Student Stability Program (HSSP), is making unique and significant progress. The HSSP bill (Senate Bill 5324) has garnered lots of vocal bipartisan support, with legislators across the state speaking on the importance of HSSP and its positive impacts on students. The bill passed nearly unanimously in all committees, passed out of the Senate 46-1, and recently passed the House 96-0! The next steps for the bill are concurrence by the Senate and then on to the Governor’s desk for signature!

It was very powerful to hear legislators across the aisle voicing their support of the bill:

As a reminder, our ask for HSSP is continued funding at $4M and some technical improvements, including:

  • Adding building points of contact to all elementary schools;
  • Promoting the identification of unaccompanied homeless youth in all middle and high schools;
  • Streamlining grant delivery;
  • Increasing focus on geographic diversity; and
  • Increasing focus on racial equity.

In addition, other education-related bills we are supporting have passed both the House and the Senate:

  • Senate Bill 5437: Expands eligibility for the Early Childhood Education & Assistance Program (ECEAP) and establishes a Birth-to-Three ECEAP Pilot.
  • Senate Bill 5800: Establishes pilot programs at certain public colleges and universities throughout the state to assist post-secondary students experiencing homelessness or students in foster care. Examples of services include: access to laundry facilities, reduced-price meals, and housing assistance.
  • House Bill 1603: Provides greater flexibility for families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), including expanding time limits for families experiencing homelessness to receive services. TANF can help families pursue education and employment, including providing subsidized childcare for families.

Legislative session is scheduled to end on April 28, but the legislature still needs to agree on a budget, which they will hopefully accomplish soon. Stay tuned to hear more about the rest of the session!

Megan Veith, JD, is a Policy & Research Associate at Building Changes.

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