(360) 786-7667|Joe.Nguyen@leg.wa.gov

News

Governor signs law to expand TANF benefits

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law today a bill that expands access to Washington’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program by remedying cuts to services made during the Great Recession.

TANF works to alleviate some of the root causes of homelessness in Washington through resources such as cash assistance and job training for those in need. But the program suffered $286 million in cuts over the past decade, even as the housing and homelessness crisis escalated.

In the past, people could receive TANF benefits only for a grand total of 60 months unless they were eligible for extension based on instances such as family hardship or homelessness. Senate Bill 6478, sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), eliminates the cap for recipients whose families are without regular housing.

The measure aims to prevent children of families in hardship from being penalized for circumstances outside their control.

“This measure is important now more than ever,” said Nguyen. “Families who are without stable housing shouldn’t find themselves on the street because they reached an arbitrary time limit. Especially now, while we are all staying home due to the pandemic, we should be making sure that as many families as possible have a safe place to sleep and avoid contact with others.”

In addition to exempting more families from the 5-year limit, the new law requires DSHS to report data identifying the race of those whose TANF benefits were reduced or terminated in the last year due to the time limit or sanctions. This is intended to address inequities for families of color, who have been disproportionately penalized by harsh time restrictions.

“These vital changes help ensure that families in crisis do not fall into deeper poverty or homelessness,” said Nguyen. “The funding cuts that these programs have seen since the recession have played a massive role in the homelessness crisis we’re seeing today. This bill addresses those inequities and works to restore the program.”

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April 2nd, 2020|News Release|

Governor signs facial recognition regulations into law

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee today signed into law comprehensive regulations on the use of facial recognition technology in Washington.

Senate Bill 6280, sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), prohibits the use of facial recognition technology for ongoing surveillance and limits its use to acquiring evidence of serious criminal offense following authorization of a search warrant.

“Right now, we have seen this technology already being used without much concern for the moral implications that are associated with it,” said Nguyen. “This bill will change that, and ensure that facial recognition isn’t being used unless there are regulatory checks and balances.”

Given reports of the technology’s bias against women, trans individuals, and people of color, SB 6280 establishes guidelines and oversight to protect against discriminatory applications.

“Now is the time to really work on this and find ways to root out the bias, so people across the country can be protected from unnecessary and intrusive surveillance,” Nguyen said.

The bill requires agencies using the technology to produce an accountability report outlining its intended use. Additionally, the use of facial recognition technology would be subject to formal review to ensure accurate representation.

“This bill begins the process of catching our laws up to where our technology is at,” said Nguyen. “I’m proud that Washington is the leader on this issue.”

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March 31st, 2020|News Release|

Coronavirus Resources

Though this is a period of uncertainty, there are resources available across the state if you find yourself in need of them. Below is a running list of those resources that will continue to be updated as more information becomes available.

General information

For any general questions you may have about what’s open and closed, coronavirus testing, and government actions taken so far, visit the general coronavirus website for the state of Washington.

Up-to-date statistics

If you are searching for current statistics about the number of individuals infected and their locations, visit the Department of Health website. You can also view this data on an interactive map here.

Information in other languages

The Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance has compiled a list of information available in 73 languages, available here.

Small business support

Small businesses seeking support during this crisis can find the application for the small business disaster loan assistance from the US Small Business Administration here.

The Federal Coronavirus Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources page includes information on debt relief, an Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program, and more.

The Small Business Administration has opened a new loan program called the Paycheck Protection Program. This is designed specifically to keep the small business workforce employed. Read more about the program here.

Unemployment resources

As many people have been impacted by this through job loss, there are increased resources available. If you have lost your source of income as a result of coronavirus, you are likely eligible for unemployment benefits through the Employment Security Department. You can find information about how to apply directly on their website.

Federal aid

The federal government recently passed a stimulus package that aims to alleviate some of the impact of coronavirus. That includes a one-time $1,200 payment to qualifying people who earn lower to middle incomes, increased compensation added to unemployment benefits, and an extension of benefits for up to 13 weeks. You can read more about those specifics on the Employment Security Department website.

Resources for students

Updates on school closures can be found on the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website. There, you can also find resources to help with remote learning.

Information in multiple languages

The general Department of Health website includes informational flyers in many different languages, which are available here.

Cultural Relief Fund for the arts sector

4Culture is starting a Cultural Relief Fund for those in the arts sector impacted by coronavirus. The first round of funding will be distributed between April 1 – May 15, and you can apply at any time in that window. If you have questions or would like to apply, visit the website for resources.

Restaurants open for take-out

If you want to support a local business by ordering a take-out meal, you can find lists of restaurants still open in Seattle in general, and in South Seattle.

Resources for those looking to help

If you have a supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), want to donate blood, or are otherwise looking for a way to help out, visit this page for more information about who to contact.

In general, the most helpful thing you can do right now is to stay home and follow the instructions of Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order

March 30th, 2020|Uncategorized|
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    Governor approves legislation to increase availability of ZEVs

Governor approves legislation to increase availability of ZEVs

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law today a bill that will create a pathway for more zero emissions vehicles to be sold in Washington State.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), Senate Bill 5811 requires auto dealerships to stock a set percentage of zero emissions cars for sale on their lots.

“This is an important step in giving more people access to environmentally sustainable modes of transportation,” said Nguyen. “We need to be actively considering how to make our air cleaner and decrease our emissions, and this is a step towards that goal.”

In 2017, about 45% of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions came from the transportation sector. SB 5811 would work to reduce emissions by spurring automakers to sell about 25,000 electronic vehicles per year by 2025. That number is roughly double the amount sold in 2019, and would make a difference of more than 100,000 tons of carbon pollution annually.

The process of applying California’s nation-leading clean air standards in Washington began in 2005, when the Legislature adopted all standards except for zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) standards. This bill remedies the difference by allowing Washington to join California and nine other states in the country as a certified ZEV state.

The bill is just one step of many taken by Senate Democrats to protect Washington’s natural environment this legislative session. Other bills include a ban on single-use plastic bags, increased access to solar projects for lower-income communities, and a commitment to being carbon neutral by 2050.

“As we face an existential threat to our climate, we can’t afford to sit idly by and watch our planet keep degrading,” said Nguyen. “Now is the time to act so that more generations can have a future like ours.”

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March 25th, 2020|News Release|

Coronavirus funding in the Legislature

Neighbors in the 34th,

We set off this session with the goal to pass a strong supplemental budget tackling homelessness, transportation, and countless community works projects in our communities. While these goals were all still met, the increasing public health crisis threatened by the coronavirus pandemic demanded an urgent response as well. In the final accounting, we appropriated $200 million.

$175 million of this aid will go to local and state response, with the remaining $25 million funding a coronavirus unemployment account and small business support. This is a scary and uncertain time, and we need to be looking out for our neighbors.

One thing is clear: hourly and lower wage workers will be hurt more by business closures and a lack of available shifts in the face of a struggling economy. These are the people that we were considering most when deciding how to respond. And this is reflected strongly in the final budget.

We also gave leeway to the State Board of Education to adjust graduation requirements for the class of 2020 so that this pandemic does not prevent a whole class of students from graduating.

This is a constantly changing situation, and I will work to keep you as up to date as possible throughout the weeks to come. In the meantime, if you have symptoms and do not have a doctor to call, you can call the King County coronavirus call center at 206-477-3977 or the Washington State Department of Health coronavirus call center at 1-800-525-0127.

Take care of yourselves and your families, and follow the advice of health officials and Governor Inslee.

In solidarity,

Sen. Joe Nguyen
34th Legislative District

 

March 14th, 2020|News Release|

Response to developing coronavirus concerns in the 34th District

Neighbors in the 34th Legislative District,

As many of you are aware by now, King County has chosen to place a quarantine facility for those ill with the novel coronavirus in White Center. This decision was made following an increasing number of confirmed cases of the illness in the region throughout the week.

Being someone with family and history in White Center, I understand the concern that many of us feel regarding the placement of this facility. It is important during this time of uncertainty, however, to understand that a quarantine facility will not necessarily mean the surrounding area is more prone to infections. These sites are a vital part of the statewide response to the virus, and provide an opportunity for those who have become sick to recover without posing a risk to their surrounding population. Our issue is not that this decision puts the public at additional risk, but rather ensuring that the community is consulted before such a decision is made.

Additional quarantine facilities will be introduced throughout the County in the coming weeks on top of the one in White Center and the preexisting Department of Health facility in Shoreline. I have been in contact with King County throughout the day to discuss the logistics of this decision, and will be working with them even more as the situation continues to play out. Additionally, the County has been reaching out to members of the White Center community to ensure this process has as minimal of an impact on the neighborhood as possible.

Considering the severity and constantly developing nature of this health crisis, communication between varying levels of government can be difficult. However, we are all working to ensure a coordinated response to the crisis.

While there are still many unknowns with this virus, what we do know is that our government is working overtime to provide the resources we need going forward. Here in Olympia, we passed a $100 million funding package to ensure a comprehensive response from state and local public health organizations. Governor Inslee has declared a state of emergency as well, and I’m sure we can expect more precautionary measures at every level as this situation develops.

Though many of us are understandably nervous about this situation, we need to be sure we’re reducing stigma as much as possible. Only share information you know to be true, such as from the Seattle & King County Public Health website, the Washington Department of Health twitter, and the Centers for Disease Control website.

Seattle & King County Public Health have updated their recommendations to slow the spread of coronavirus in our community and reduce the number of people infected. These include:

  • Working from home if you’re able to.
  • Considering postponing large gatherings and group events.
  • Staying home and out of the public when sick.
  • Frequently washing your hands with warm soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Calling the King County novel coronavirus call center at 206-477-3977 if you are in the county and believe you were exposed to a confirmed case, or if you are a health care provider with questions about the outbreak.

We must work together as a community in our response to this health crisis. Testing will be amped up in the coming weeks in order to provide those who have been diagnosed with the proper care they need to both recover and prevent the further spread of coronavirus.

Sincerely,

Sen. Joe Nguyen

34th Legislative District.

March 4th, 2020|Uncategorized|
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    Senate passes Nguyen bill to regulate facial recognition technology

Senate passes Nguyen bill to regulate facial recognition technology

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Senate voted 30-18 today to install key safeguards in the use of facial recognition technology by agencies in the public sector.

Senate Bill 6280, sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), would prohibit the use of facial recognition technology for ongoing surveillance and limit its use to instances when facial recognition surveillance would provide evidence of serious criminal offense. In these circumstances, a search warrant would be required by law enforcement or other government agencies before using the technology.

As facial recognition technology is already being utilized throughout Washington and online, there are few laws in place to restrict its use. This bill would change that by setting clear standards for the use of the technology by public agencies.

“The companies that are already producing this technology don’t care about the moral implications involved — they care about profit,” Nguyen said. “That’s why we need to take action now to hold these companies accountable and ensure that public agencies don’t keep using this technology without any regulatory checks or balances.”

During a time when many are skeptical of the technology due to reports of bias against women and people of color, Nguyen hopes to establish moral guardrails in Washington state that can be more broadly applied across the country.

“We have an opportunity to look at this technology and figure out how we can make it more equitable for everyone,” said Nguyen. “Now is the time to really work on this and find ways to root out that bias, so people across the country can be protected from unnecessary and intrusive surveillance. This is an issue that we should be leading on.”

The bill would also require agencies using the technology to produce an accountability report outlining their intended use, as well as an annual report disclosing violations to the report and all known uses of the technology. Additionally, the use of facial recognition technology would be subject to meaningful review as a further security net to ensure accurate representation.

“We can’t afford to stand pat and do nothing,” said Nguyen. “We need to regulate facial recognition technology now.”

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

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For information: Courtney James, Democratic Caucus Communications, (360)-786-7853

February 19th, 2020|News Release|

Senate passes Nguyen bill to reform recession-era TANF restrictions

OLYMPIA – Legislation passed today by the Washington State Senate would restore recession-era cuts that have exacerbated a number of the root causes of the state’s growing homelessness crisis.

The past decade saw $286 million in cuts to the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program – a program that helps to alleviate some of the root causes of the housing and homelessness crisis which people have ranked as their top area of concern.

“As someone who grew up in a family that relied on TANF, I know how important this program is to families across Washington,” said Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), the bill’s sponsor. “This bill is an investment in the people of Washington state, and part of a larger effort to alleviate homelessness and ensure we have a stable environment for working families in our state.”

A vital resource for those in need, WorkFirst currently imposes restrictions that require recipients to participate in one or more WorkFirst activities such as job hunting training, career development, and vocational training programs. However, the requirement fails to consider those who are unable to meet this requirement due to barriers outside of their control such as inability to access childcare, family illness, mental health disorders, and homelessness.

The Department of Social and Human Services has found that, of recipients who were cut off from TANF due to noncompliance:

  • 80% did not have childcare,
  • 40% were homeless,
  • 57% were unstably housed in the prior year,
  • 63% needed mental health services, and
  • 33% had a chronic disease or serious disability.

Individuals unable to meet the WorkFirst requirement may lose TANF grants as a consequence. Additionally, because those who depend on TANF grants care for at least one child, a termination of the family’s grant results in a penalty to the child who was at no fault of their own.

Senate Bill 6478, which passed on a 30-18 vote, would reform the penalty to allow those in crisis more time to re-engage in work activities to prevent penalizing the children of those unable to meet WorkFirst requirements.

Under the bill, if a recipient is unable to engage in work activities for two months, their family’s grant would be reduced by either 40% or the recipient’s share of the grant. After 12 months of noncompliance, the family’s grant could then be terminated.

“These important changes work to help families in crisis not fall into homelessness or further poverty,” said Nguyen. “The funding cuts that these programs have seen since the recession have played a massive role in the homelessness crisis we’re seeing today. This bill addresses those inequities and works to restore the program.”

The bill will now move to the House for consideration.

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For information: Courtney James, Senate Democratic Caucus Communications, (360)-786-7853

February 18th, 2020|News Release|

Town Hall in the 34th LD!

February 14th, 2020|Uncategorized|
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    Nguyen: House excise tax bill ‘one step closer’ to much-needed tax reform

Nguyen: House excise tax bill ‘one step closer’ to much-needed tax reform

OLYMPIA — A bill introduced today in the House which would allow counties with populations of more than 2 million to impose an excise tax on business is a valuable step in reforming the state’s upside-down tax system, Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center) said.

“In one of the richest cities in the richest country in the world, we shouldn’t be seeing our communities struggle so much,” Nguyen said. “Washington State has the most regressive tax code in the entire country, and it’s unacceptable that our laws trap those with the smallest incomes at the bottom while the richest keep moving up.”

House Bill 2907 would impose a 0.1% to 0.2% tax on companies that pay their employees more than $150,000 per year. Seattle city officials estimate that the tax could raise up to $120 million a year to be used to address the homelessness crisis in King County. The money would be used to build more affordable housing and fund programs that aim to prevent homelessness.

“This is one step closer to the progressive tax reform we need in Washington,” said Nguyen. “We aren’t all the way there yet, but I’m optimistic to see the pathway forward that this bill offers.”

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For information: Courtney James, Senate Democratic Caucus Communications, (360)-786-7853

January 29th, 2020|Uncategorized|