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Childrens Alliance Legislative recap 2024

The author, Dr. Stephan Blanford, executive director of Children's Alliance, urges those who care about children in Washington to vote in favor of keeping the state's capital gains tax in November.

Progress made, but far more to do for kids

Legislative wins in behavioral health and child care amid important losses

This year’s 60-day legislative session went by extremely fast. Despite its short length, lawmakers passed several policies that will improve the lives of Washington’s kids and families. 

Addressing the children’s behavioral health crisis

Over the past few years, youth behavioral health has become one of Children’s Alliance’s top priorities. Like many parents, educators, and young people themselves, we are very concerned by the rising numbers of children who need behavioral health care but are unable to access it. Two bills that passed this session aim to address this issue. 

HB 1946 and HB 2247 will increase and diversify the behavioral health workforce by expanding access to conditional scholarships and simplifying supervision and licensing guidelines, respectively. We know that health outcomes for patients improve when they can see a provider they identify with, and we hope these two bills increase the number of providers who are underrepresented in, and historically excluded from, the behavioral health field. This is a small step towards getting all of Washington’s kids the support they need, but we are confident that we can build upon this progress in 2025.

Helping more families with child care costs

Along with our partners in the Early Learning Action Alliance, we were able to successfully support legislation that will help more families cover the cost of child care. Applying for child care subsidies is often a complex and confusing process – and one that causes many families to miss out on the financial support they are entitled to. A trio of bills passed this year that will simplify that process. 

HB 1945 and HB 2124 both make it easier for families to access Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidies if they already qualify for certain food assistance or early education programs. HB 2124 also allows individuals who work in certain early learning programs to access subsidized care for their own children. Additionally, HB 2111 clarifies requirements to make the WCCC application process smoother. 

Missed opportunities: Free school meals, Guaranteed Basic Income

Along with these successes, there were important policies that did not make it through the Legislature this year. Efforts to expand the free and low-cost school meals program which passed in 2023 stalled due to lack of state revenue to cover the cost. We are optimistic that with strong public support and fewer budgetary limitations, this bill could progress in 2025.

Similarly, many bills to advance economic justice saw little movement this session. One bright spot was a public hearing for Senate Bill 6196, which aimed to expand the statewide Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) Program. 

This program would give qualifying individuals or families a monthly payment equal to 100% of the fair market rent in the county in which they live at the time they apply. In 2024, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom residence in Washington ranged between $958-$2,645 per month. Tacoma’s pilot GBI program has shown extremely positive results and is a workable model to help lift participating families out of poverty. 

Another reason to vote in November

Although the legislative session is now over, a serious threat to our state’s revenue remains in the form of a millionaire-backed initiative to repeal the capital gains tax, revenue from which is a crucial source of funding for early learning and K-12 education. We’re determined to do all we can to fight against this attack on our children’s future, but it will be up to voters to decide whether this tax remains in place when it appears on the November ballot. 

Take action

For more information on the outcomes for kids from the 2024 session, check out our Legislative Report. Join us in thanking state lawmakers who stood up for kids this year. If you’d like to stay informed about the legislation that passed this session and what we’ll be working on in the coming months, please sign up for our action alerts. We need every voice to continue to speak up for a better future for all Washington kids.    

Read more:

‘Sine Die!’ 2024 WA legislature: More bills of impact to kids await Gov. Inslee’s signature to become law

About the Author

Dr. Stephan Blanford

Dr. Stephan Blanford is Executive Director of the Children's Alliance and has dedicated much of his career to advocacy and policymaking for children and families. He was appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to the Washington Child Care Collaborative Task Force and Dental Therapy Task Force, serves on the national board of Partnership for America’s Children and serves Board Chair for Integrated Schools, a nationwide organization that mobilizes families to practice antiracist school integration.