Washington State’s legislators face enormous challenges in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. They also have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address persistent economic, racial, gender, and regional inequality by investing in healthy communities and opportunity for all Washingtonians.
In the past decade, too many households struggled to meet skyrocketing costs for housing, health care, child care, and college tuition – even while the top 20% prospered. COVID has only deepened the divides. Workers, families, and small businesses all across our state need both immediate relief and state investments that will build long-term economic security, including:
Child care – Our state’s economic recovery will depend on parents being able to find a safe place for their kids so they can go back to work. But child care was in crisis even before COVID, and without help, many centers may never reopen. Access to quality child care will require state investment in PPE, living wages for childcare workers, and affordability for families.
Health care – Without affordable, high-quality health care we can’t beat COVID or erase geographic, racial, and gender inequities in health outcomes. We must both pursue policies to contain out-of-control prices and invest more in assuring equitable access to affordable care for everyone – including those who’ve lost jobs and income due to COVID, starting by following through with Cascade Care subsidies and extending postpartum coverage.
Higher education – Our state’s public colleges and universities can help spur stronger economic recovery by providing students and the recently unemployed opportunities to learn new skills – if we invest in equitable access and equip our colleges and universities with the staffing and resources to both educate students and help them achieve degrees.
Inequality – Investments in childcare, health, and educational opportunity can begin to address racial, gender, and geographic inequities – if we craft policies with an equity lens. We must find ways to provide resources directly to impacted individuals and communities so that they can respond to their own needs. We must also ensure that essential workers have enough paid sick leave to navigate this health emergency and that Washington’s Paid Family & Medical Leave is equitably reaching all workers and families.
Progressive revenue – By financing important public services now, we can come out of this emergency into a new and better normal in which all people can face the future with hope. Policymakers must make forward-looking choices to raise progressive revenues for new investments that will promote widespread and equitable recovery.