Gov. Jay Inslee announced $5.8 million in grants today to fight poverty in Washington state. Benton-Franklin Workforce Development Council received $856.8K as one of the grant awardees under EcSA. The grants, awarded from the Governor’s federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Statewide Activities fund, will support organizations in four local Workforce Development Areas (WDAs) who are developing plans and sustainable activities to improve the lives of families to above 200 percent of federal poverty level (FPL).
“These grants will make a tremendous difference for thousands of people in communities all over Washington,” Inslee said. “They will empower local areas to build sustainable models and creative partnerships to address the needs of families and others who experience poverty.”
The “Economic Security for All” (EcSA) grant awards money to organizations to systematically approach the problem of poverty and design measurable poverty reduction systems. The state will measure success on two key statistics: the number of families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) who move all the way up to income over 200 percent of the FPL, and net poverty reduction for their entire community by March 2022.
People experiencing poverty are expected to be a big part in the design and implementation of the local poverty reduction systems. Their first-hand experience provides a perspective that will be incorporated into the implementation details on financial and personal stability.
“The root cause of poverty can be different for each person,” said Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine. “That’s why we’re taking an inclusive approach by joining forces with those experiencing it and the communities in which they live. This will give them the opportunity to share their stories and find practical solutions to get escape velocity out of poverty.”
Grant awardees are not expected to accomplish this with the grant funding alone. Rather, it’s expected the grant funding will spur groups to reorganize how they use their larger existing funding streams and encourage them to work together in creating a poverty reduction system.
The grant stipulates that at least one local community partner who has expertise serving individuals in poverty and the local Department of Social and Health Services community service office must help design and lead the work.
“Poverty is a complex issue and helping to lift families out of poverty will be equally complex,” said Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Cheryl Strange. “We’re excited to learn from and partner with local community organizations to find ways to expand this work and help Washington families gain the skills needed to build a strong foundation out of poverty.”
Economic Security for All
EcSA is intended to support a long-term, systemic approach to helping Washingtonians move out of poverty at large scale. This first round of funding provided $5.8 million for four communities in Washington to lead the way, by demonstrating that they can reduce the number of people living in poverty in a specific geographic community.
The grants require a systemic approach. First, the funds must drive change in existing programs and funding streams, so that local programs work together seamlessly to reduce poverty in their communities. Next, it requires communities to be high-poverty, geographically defined communities, such as counties, cities, towns, or tribal reservations, sized such that the investment can be expected to generate a noticeable and measurable reduction in poverty.
Federal Poverty Level
The federal poverty level for a family of two was $16,240 in 2017.
Contact: Tiffany Scott, CEO, 509-734-5993 Expected Outcome: 115 families moved out of poverty
Proposed activities: This EcSA model will focus on remote Connell, Washington, building a partnership around four pillars of support: transportation, healthcare, childcare and employment. EcSA Benton-Franklin will establish regular transportation to connect residents of Connell to opportunities and resources in the Tri-Cities; provide access to physical and mental healthcare; support access to affordable, reliable, and quality childcare; and focus employment and training efforts on high-demand occupations in Connell and the Tri-Cities. This model is designed to enable replication in other rural population centers in Washington, upon request.