NEWS SHINES | State of WA Expands Health Coverage to Undocumented Persons; Juarez and Herbold are not seeking re-election

A roundup of news and announcements we don’t want to lose in the fast moving news cycle!

curated by Vee Hua 華婷婷

✨Shiny this week✨

Photo showing a group of protesters carrying signs that read: "Don't make America sick again" and "The ACA saved my life* and still does."
Rally in support of the Affordable Care Act at the White House, Washington, DC February 25, 2017. Photograph credited to Ted Etyan (under a Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0 license).

Washington becomes the first state to extend health insurance to undocumented immigrants

Washington State’s passage of Section 1332 on Patient Protection and Affordable Care (ACA) now expands access to health insurance for undocumented immigrants in the state.

Corresponding The hill, “The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Treasury Department approved Washington’s application for a federal innovation waiver issued under Section 1332 of the ACA. The request for this waiver was filed in May.”

The 1332 waiver can be pursued by any state with a proposal for “innovative strategies” around affordable health care. If the state accepts the federal requirements, the waiver will come into effect from 2024 to 2028.

Expanding access to health care for undocumented immigrants is the result of the work of a coalition of grassroots organizations including but not limited to Northwest Health Law Advocates, Washington-based ACLU and members of WAISN, the largest immigrant-led organization and grassroots coalition of over 400 immigrant and refugee rights organizations.

According to WASN’s press release, they will be taking community members to Olympia on February 16 for the annual Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Day. They hope to meet with lawmakers on a permanent health care program and unemployment insurance for undocumented workers.

Seattle City Council exempts design review for affordable housing projects

This week, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously 9-0 to again temporarily extend COVID-19-era guidelines that help accelerate processes related to the development and production of affordable housing. The legislation speeds up bureaucratic processes for affordable housing developers, saving them time and money by allowing them to opt out of design review, which has historically been a slow and cumbersome process.

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“We will continue to reform Design Review to improve the program and streamline bureaucratic functions that are slowing our ability to get homes online quickly,” said Councilor Dan Strauss (District 6 – Northwest Seattle), Chair of the Land Use Committee, in the City Council press release. “I’ve seen firsthand in my work on homelessness that if we have shelters available, we can get people off the streets. With decent, affordable housing, we reduce the time people spend in shelters and every shelter bed serves more people, which means we get more people off the streets.”

Strauss worked with Mayor Bruce Harrell and Council Member Teresa Mosqueda on Council Bill 120464.

It was first adopted in April 2020 and later extended that same year in October 2020 with a term until December 30, 2022. This transitional legislation complies with the following regulations for up to one year:

  • Allow developments to opt out of design review if at least 40% of units are affordable for households with incomes no greater than 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI).
  • Authorize the Director of the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) to waive or amend certain design standards for projects opting out of Design Review as a Type I (i.e. non-appealable) decision if the waiver (Jan ) has no effect the height, mass, and scale of development; and (2) leading to more affordable units.
  • Approve a work program to accommodate permanent changes to the Design Review Program.

After this year, Councilor Strauss and Mayor Harrell will draft more long-term legislation. Future bills may cause:

  • Permanently exempt affordable housing projects from design review.
  • Exempt housing projects that use the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program to produce their units on-site for a two-year pilot.
  • Allow all other housing projects to choose whether to participate in the full design review or the administrative design review as a two-year pilot.
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Council President Juarez and Councilor Herbold are not seeking re-election

Last week, both Seattle City Council President Debora Juarez (District 5 – North Seattle) and Councilwoman Lisa Herbold (District 1 – West Seattle, South Park) announced that they would not seek re-election. Her term of office ends on December 31, 2023.

Councilor Juarez, a member of Blackfeet Nation and the first Indigenous person to serve on the city council, was elected to office in 2015 and re-elected in 2019. She hinted at a Dec. 12 city council meeting, “This is my last year here, so I’m trying to get a lot done.”

This message has been confirmed cross-section by Council spokeswoman Dana Robinson-Slote, who wrote to them: “It’s a conversation that has been going on for some time and both her tenure and her tenure as a leader will end next year 2023.”

In a press release, Councilor Herbold summarized her accomplishments in 2023, then wrote: “I will not be standing for re-election in 2023. Aside from my love of public service to District 1 voters, I do not want the council to lose a progressive vote on the council.”

“The 2022 election last month was good for progressives. I feel like it’s time to do my part to have an open election in District 1,” she continued. “I believe an open seat can improve turnout and deliver District 1 to another progressive.”

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