As an organization influencing policy statewide, it’s vital that EOI listens to voices in communities across the state. When we center those most impacted by income and wealth inequality in policy solutions, (Black and Brown communities, immigrant communities, and rural communities) everyone benefits. In early September, the policy team at EOI hit the road to travel to eastern Washington. We were eager to connect with partners, lawmakers, and new friends interested in building economic security for all.
To understand the needs and priorities of our state’s different regions, EOI is listening to the people and communities most impacted by our policy priorities. Then, we want to work toward incorporating their concerns into our evolving policy ideas.
The advocates addressing eastern Washington’s most pressing issues
We traveled east in early September to meet with advocates, community members, small business owners, and lawmakers from Yakima and the Yakima Valley, Spokane, and Okanogan County. Sitting in labor halls, local coffee shops, and living rooms, those we met spoke candidly with us about the biggest issues facing the people in their communities.
We heard from individuals working to address some of our state’s most pressing issues, such as housing, transportation, healthcare, support for immigrants, economic support systems, and progressive taxation. Some notable work that we learned about included:
- Efforts in the Yakima Valley to create a public hospital. This is ongoing work and is a popular solution to the lack of accessible healthcare in the area.
- Civic engagement classes that are amplifying immigrant voices locally and at the capitol, led by La Casa Hogar in Yakima.
- Innovative and collaborative support for small businesses in the Inland Northwest, led by the Spokane Independent Metro Business Alliance.
- Organizing around reclaiming the rural narrative in Okanogan County and other parts of north-central Washington with Rural People’s Voice.
- Proposals to expand commuter rail in the Yakima valley to improve opportunities for employment, education, and health care access.
Housing, health care and language access rise to the top
Along with the progress happening in the communities we visited, there are of course challenges. We asked everyone we talked to “what’s the biggest economic concern in your community?” Every time, the first answer was affordable and accessible housing.
Other issues that rise to the top include accessing healthcare. Specifically, the folks we talked to mentioned the ability to get an appointment, get transportation to an appointment or specialist, and language access in healthcare settings. Language access is a broad-ranging issue, spanning numerous areas of policy. For example, we heard about how language challenges create barriers to support programs like Paid Family & Medical Leave, the Working Families Tax Credit, and the newly expanded health insurance for undocumented immigrants.
EOI works to ensure good policy becomes real support and relief for Washingtonians
The engaging and frank conversations about policy implementation remind us that passing a bill and getting a program up and running are only the first steps. Diligent follow through and communication across the state after the passage of progressive policies is vital to their success. We must actively work to ensure that good policy becomes real support and relief for Washingtonians. EOI will continue to engage with communities across the state to inform future efforts on both new and existing policies.
The EOI policy team is still on the move! Stay tuned for more entries in our travel log as we travel to other parts of the state.
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To understand the needs and priorities of our state’s different regions, EOI is listening to the people and communities most impacted by our policy priorities.