The legislature recognizes the challenges posed for Washingtonians experiencing poverty to navigate multiple complex public benefit systems in order to access necessary supports. The legislature recognizes that barriers to applying for public benefits exist including but not limited to adequate internet and telephone access, language accessibility, nonstandard work hours, disability access, reliable transportation, and other challenges. The legislature further recognizes that increased access to public benefits will help promote economic recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic.
The legislature finds that the governor's poverty reduction work group endorsed multiple recommendations to reduce poverty statewide, including allowing means-tested or income-tested programs to use basic food eligibility as an eligibility metric for other means-tested programs. The legislature therefore intends to promote economic recovery and administrative efficiency by creating a program within the office of financial management to authorize agencies and departments to utilize basic food eligibility as a form of categorical eligibility within other programs.
The basic food categorical income eligibility program is created within the office.
Programs that include an income or means test as part of the program's eligibility requirements may apply to the office for authorization to consider a person income-eligible for their program if the person is receiving food benefits pursuant to chapter 74.04 RCW, or other benefits according to the department of social and health services' benefit verification system, as provided for in rule.
The office may accept or deny program requests. If a request is denied, the office must notify the human-centered poverty reduction system design team of the basis for its denial including, but not limited to: A barrier in federal law or rule or state law or rule, or whether increasing income eligibility would increase the program's caseload.
Programs that are approved may begin immediate implementation of utilizing basic food eligibility to verify income or means test eligibility within existing resources.
Programs that may apply to the basic food categorical income eligibility program include, but are not limited to: The low-income home energy assistance program, the community service block grant, college bound, workforce development programs, and other programs that are income or means tested and wish to increase their income eligibility.