What Impact Did You Make in Olympia?

By Nancy B. Greer

President & CEO
Every year, your Federation brings Jewish Puget Sound together to make our collective voice heard in Olympia by advocating for our community’s highest priorities.

This year, as with so much else in public and community life, things were different. The Washington State Legislature held an unprecedented virtual session, which presented unique challenges for communicating with elected officials and mobilizing community support for our legislative agenda. I’m happy to report that we made virtual advocacy work and secured passage of critically important legislation and budget provisions. Three-fourths of the bills and budget measures for which we advocated were enacted into law. 

You can read about legislative session highlights here.

The wins show what is possible when we pull together to work toward shared goals. All our critical advocacy work is made possible by generous donors like you, so thank you!

One of the most rewarding shifts we made in advocacy this year was holding three In the Wings virtual gatherings with members of the Legislature’s Jewish Caucus. In the Wings gave community members opportunities to hear, first-hand, about the Legislature’s activities. Most importantly, In the Wings helped strengthen the relationships with our elected representatives that are so crucial to moving our legislative agenda forward. You can watch videos of all three In the Wings gatherings here.

This year’s legislative session brought significant progress on high-priority issues for our Jewish community: fighting antisemitism and hate crimes, deepening the safety net for families in need, moving the needle on racial equity, and more.

Before each legislative session, community members share their  priorities through our annual public policy advocacy survey. Federation collaborates with communal organizations and lay leaders to craft a legislative agenda, and once the session begins, we work together to achieve our shared goals. Your Federation upholds collaboration as one of our organization values, because, as Ecclesiastes reminds us, “a threefold cord is not easily broken.”

Collaboration works! As ADL shared recently: “The Federation’s government affairs team is a critical partner in helping the ADL advocate effectively. From their strategic guidance only a phone call away, to their hands-on tactical support in pulling together a meaningful lobby day. We are grateful for their support!”

To strengthen the fight against antisemitism and hate crimes, collaborative advocacy resulted in addition of $200,000 to the state budget to study the use and effectiveness of restorative justice, a policy of repairing the harm to people and communities caused by hate crimes.

Collaboration also made a difference in deepening the social safety net. As Carolyn Hathaway, Government Affairs Director at Jewish Family Service, told us, “The partnership and support we received from the Federation helped JFS advocate effectively for our clients and the programs upon which they rely. Our collaboration with the Federation was key to the historic investments the Legislature made to programs that help the most vulnerable.”

Those investments are urgently needed, given how much economic harm the pandemic caused for so many in our state. One of our wins was a 15 percent increase in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding. For working families who don’t make enough to afford life’s necessities, TANF is a lifeline. Another win for families was securing extension of Medicaid (health) coverage for moms for a full year after baby’s arrival—helping all moms and babies stay healthy, regardless of immigration status.

These accomplishments are your accomplishments. Together, we work for the well-being of the Jewish people and our broader community, living up to our shared value of Kehilla/Areivut, our mutual responsibility to each other.