Imagine what investing $4,000 at birth could do for a child by the time they are an adult.
Such an investment could reduce the opportunity gap between those with financial means and those without by contributing to college costs, apprenticeship fees, new business costs, or a downpayment on a house.
Imagine the possibilities
That is precisely what Washington State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti wants state lawmakers and families enrolled in the state’s Apple Health/Medicaid program to do during the 2024 session of the Washington State Legislature: Imagine what those possibilities would mean for an individual and the broader state economy.
The 60-day session begins January 8.
The baby bonds bill
If lawmakers pass the Washington Future Fund bill – better known as the “baby bonds” bill – a trust fund would be set up for about 40,000 Washington babies each year. That’s the number of infants enrolled annually in Apple Health.
It’s also nearly half of newborns in Washington. Apple Health covers adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In April 2023, that translated to about $41,400 for a family of four.
“Tackling deep systemic issues, like the generational wealth gap, takes creative solutions with a long-term strategy,” said Treasurer Pellicciotti when he introduced the proposal. “Disrupting cycles of poverty by investing in our children’s futures is a win for all Washingtonians.”
An investment in their future
The invested funds would become available to trust fund recipients between 18 and 35. At 18, a young adult could leave high school with as much as $15,000. If they wait until age 35, the investment could increase to over $30,000. Funds are intended for three purposes:
Homeownership: Pellicciotti and the Washington Future Fund Committee say the program will expand access to homeownership, a cornerstone asset in building wealth and passing it on to the next generation.
Entrepreneurship: In providing seed capital for young entrepreneurs, bill authors say the Future Fune can help rebuild Washington’s economic foundation.
Postsecondary Education: Funds would be available for a broad range of education opportunities, including the trades and apprenticeships. The funds could be used for tuition upfront or to pay off debt down the line.
“Despite meeting most requirements to access a small business loan, financial institutions wouldn’t strongly consider my application if I couldn’t contribute capital of my own,” said Efrem Fesaha, owner of Renton-based Boon Boona Coffee. “This prevented the opening of my business for nearly a decade. The Future Fund would reduce barriers for the next generation of entrepreneurs looking to build communities and achieve economic stability.” Fesaha is a member of the Washington Future Fund Committee.
What needs to happen for passage
The Washington Future Fund bill was introduced last year and made it through committees in the state Senate and House of Representatives with bipartisan support.
This year, the bill would have to win approval in House and Senate financial committees. Further, to turn into law, it must approved by the full legislative body before the end of the legislative session on March 7.
Funding the fund
Although the Legislature will not vote on a new state budget until 2025 that might include a funding stream for the program, Pellicciotti hopes his baby bonds program can launch this year with money the Treasurer’s Office has raised through improved investments.
If approved, every child born in Washington who receives Apple Health services before their first birthday is eligible. The first cohort of baby bond kids would turn 18 in 2042-43.
Interested in sharing your thoughts about this or other legislature proposed for the 2024 Washington State Legislature? Send a message to your senator or representative by calling 1-800-562-6000 (TTY for Hearing Impaired 800.833.6388). Or, email your lawmaker from the state’s lawmaker contact webpage.