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April 3, 2020
On March 27 the federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2.2 trillion aid package. Provisions of the act include direct checks to middle and lower income households, extended unemployment benefits, funding for the health care system, grants and loans for small businesses, and loans for larger corporations. Washington state was allocated grants for housing, education, child care, energy assistance for low income individuals, and general aid. Specifics are outlined in a statement from Governor Inslee here. Archbishop Paul Coakley, chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued a statement on the CARES Act earlier this week. He noted merits of the bill while pointing to the necessity of future legislation to continue aid for those in need, including undocumented immigrants.
As the Washington 2020 legislative session has ended, below is a wrap up of bills we have been closely following this year. Thank you for your support in advocating for the common good.
Life & Liberty
UW Study of Barriers to Assisted Suicide Bill Passes
The full Senate passed HB 2419 by a 36-13 margin last week. The Legislature delivered the bill to Governor Inslee for his signature. HB 2419 proposed a study of the barriers to people accessing lethal medication to commit assisted suicide. The bill directs the University of Washington to “conduct a study of the ability of Washington residents to access the Washington ‘death with dignity act.'” The study could lay the groundwork for the expansion of assisted suicide in the state. The WSCC opposed HB 2419.
Bill to Repeal Death Penalty Dies in Rules Committee
Although the Washington State Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 2018, it remains part of state law. The Court noted that this is the fourth time Washington’s death penalty laws have been declared unconstitutional since 1972. SB 5339 would have removed the statute from Washington’s law books. The bill failed in the House Rules Committee and therefore was not brought to a floor vote before the March 6 cutoff. The WSCC supported SB 5339.
Justice, Peace & Environment
Increased Funding for the Housing Trust Fund
The Legislature approved an additional $40 million from the Capital Budget to the Housing Trust Fund (HTF). The HTF is one of the best tools for ensuring access to safe, affordable housing in Washington. Since 1986, the HTF has awarded nearly $1 billion in funding and helped build or preserve approximately 50,000 units of affordable housing statewide. HTF supports first-time home ownership programs and homes for families, seniors, veterans, farm workers, and people with disabilities. Many of the people living in HTF-supported low-income housing are workers who live below the federal poverty level. The WSCC supports funding the HTF to the highest possible amount
Clean Fuel Standard Bill Fails
The Clean Fuel Standard, HB 1110, would have guaranteed a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector while allowing market forces to determine which fuels best achieve results. Washington is the only state on the West Coast without a Clean Fuel Standard. The bill died in the Senate Transportation Committee. The WSCC supported HB 1110.
Bill to Improve Access to TANF To be Signed Today
The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program is a crucial part of the social safety net. HB 2441 gives case managers more flexibility in applying certain provisions to prevent homelessness, address racial disparities, and consider individual factors when assessing each client’s compliance with the program’s requirements. The full Senate passed HB 2441 on March 5 by a 32-17 margin, and the House passed the bill 56-41. This bill is scheduled to be signed by Governor Inslee this afternoon. The WSCC supports HB 2441.
Human Trafficking Bill Wins Unanimous Senate Approval But Fails in the House
On March 6, the Senate amended HB 2320 and passed it unanimously (48-0). On March 10, the House refused to concur in the Senate amendments and asked the Senate to recede from its amendments. The legislation requires all hotel and motel employees to undergo human trafficking awareness training each year. The government would enforce the training requirement by not renewing or issuing a license to a hotel or motel without first receiving written certification that the human trafficking training requirements have been met. The WSCC supported HB 2320
Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) Signed into Law
On March 27 Governor Inslee signed SB 5395 into law. The law sets a statewide standard for Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) for all students in K-12 public schools. This law prevents locally elected school boards from fully self-determining their own policy in this sensitive area, rather than enabling them to protect the values of their community. SB 5395 also failed to adequately address complex moral issues tied to human sexuality. The law takes effect on June 11, 2020. Two veto referenda, R-90 and R-91, have been filed to put a measure on the ballot for fall elections to ask voters whether to uphold or repeal this new law. WSCC opposes SB 5395.
From the Vatican
Pope Francis’s Urbi et orbi Blessing
Last Friday Pope Francis delivered a special Urbi et orbi blessing in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Latin for “To the City and the World”, this extraordinary blessing is usually only reserved for Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. Click here for the text of his meditation on the calming of the storm from the Gospel of Mark and for a video of the entire blessing.
Faith in Action and Advocacy
Catholic Community Services and Catholic Charities Responses to COVID-19
Throughout Washington the church has taken action to address community needs in light of COVID-19. A Northwest Catholic article speaks to actions of Catholic Community Services of Western Washington during the pandemic to serve the vulnerable. Details of the work of Catholic Charities Eastern Washington can be found here. In the diocese of Yakima, Catholic Charities of Central Washington is also working to assist the vulnerable and those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. From increased housing options to child care services for essential personnel to assistance for vulnerable seniors, Catholic Community Services and Catholic Charities have been answering the call to serve during the pandemic.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Responses to COVID-19
Internationally, the Catholic church assists countries as they combat COVID-19 via the work of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). CRS is the official relief and development agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As the corona virus spreads throughout the world, CRS has been working to provide rapid response health care teams, improve health care facilities, train health care workers, educate about preventative measures, and provide food baskets and cash assistance to vulnerable populations. Read more about CRS’s work during the pandemic here.
CRS Rice Bowl
CRS Rice Bowl is a Lenten program to put our Catholic faith into action through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. As public masses are suspended throughout Washington during the pandemic, CRS Rice Bowl collections will not take place in person. As Lent draws to a close, you are encouraged to contact your parish regarding how you can submit CRS Rice Bowl contributions, or you can donate to CRS Rice Bowl directly electronically or via the mail or phone.
In addition to providing direct services to those in need throughout the world, CRS also advocates for public policies serving the global community. CRS supports the Global Child Thrive Act (H.R. 4864), which would improve early childhood programs to help children reach their full potential in the face of poverty, conflict, forced displacement, and malnutrition. Join in advocacy efforts and click here to urge your US Representative to take action on this bill.
April 1 was Census Day, and there is still time to be counted. Click here for a link to the English website, and click here for the Spanish site. The census is conducted only every ten years. Results have numerous policy implications, including federal funding for Medicaid, Head Start, community health services, hospitals, fire departments, and other critical programs and services. The census also informs legislative redistricting and provides research data for communities regarding population trends and growth projections.