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News / Clark County News

Senators’ push for housing, kids pays off

Cantwell, Murray get funding for programs into U.S. spending bill

By Katy Sword, Columbian politics reporter
Published: March 22, 2018, 8:50pm

Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray secured funding provisions in the $1.3 trillion spending package working its way through Congress. The bill was approved by the House on Thursday.

Cantwell worked on a provision to increase the Low Income Housing Tax Credit by 12.5 percent.

“This is the first increase in over a decade,” Cantwell, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Nearly $3 billion is a good start towards tackling the housing crisis in our cities and rural communities. The increase couldn’t come at a better time. This down payment will help us deal with the tremendous deficit we have in affordable housing.”

The program gives state and local agencies the authority to issue tax credits for acquiring, rehabilitating and constructing affordable housing. Given the current affordable housing crisis, the tax credit is considered vital by low-income housing agencies.

Nationwide, the housing shortage has grown to 7.2 million rental homes from 4.4 million in 2000, according to a study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. In Washington, the shortage is growing faster than the national average. Median rents have increased 7.6 percent in the last 18 years compared with 5.1 percent nationally.

“Sen. Cantwell’s legislation provision is a very welcome boost to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit,” said Kim Herman, executive director of the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, in a statement. “She is the most effective champion for affordable housing in Congress, and we are so grateful that she has continued to fight for Washington households who are struggling with housing costs.”

Child care, education

Murray, also a Democrat, announced a down payment of her own.

“I’ve heard from families across Washington state and the country about their struggles to find and afford high-quality child care and early learning, so I’m pleased Congress listened to the voices of parents, teachers, advocates and local community members, and agreed to increase investments in Head Start and agreed to the biggest increase of child care funding ever,” Murray said in a statement.

The spending agreement features a $2.37 billion increase to the Child Care Development Block Grant and an additional $610 million for Head Start.

“This deal will allow over 200,000 more low-income children to receive access to high-quality child care programs, which we know levels the playing field for all children,” said Kris Perry, president of Save the Children Action Network, in a press release.

Although Murray’s health care bill to fund an insurance subsidy program was ultimately left out of the spending bill, she said she will continue to champion childhood care and education.

“As a former preschool teacher, I know that investing in our youngest learners isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smartest thing we can do — so I hope we can keep working together until high-quality, affordable early learning and care is a reality for all,” Murray said.

Columbian politics reporter