OPINION: A Mother’s Call to Action for State Lawmakers

by Scarlett To


As the Washington State Legislature responds to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Washington families continue to struggle with multiple crises, and we need action from our leaders now. As a local mother and advocate, I am urging lawmakers to take bold and swift action to get immediate relief to communities and families.

Communities across Washington are in crisis, and they have been for a long time due to decades of underinvestment and racist public policies that made Black, Indigenous, Communities of Color, and immigrant communities more vulnerable to the harm of the COVID-19 pandemic. As an immigrant and Mother of Color, I know this truth all too well. Even before the pandemic, my family was struggling. In 2017, we became homeless after my husband was injured at work. He received about $1,500 each month from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, but it wasn’t enough to cover the cost of safe housing, childcare, and food. 

Around the same time, I was accepted to the University of Washington to major in early childhood and family studies and minor in law, societies, and justice. As a student, I advocated for other families and parents like me and worked to make sure my two children could get the care they needed. But in order to survive and graduate, we went deep into credit card debt, using them to pay for basic necessities like rent and food. Then the pandemic struck. Our only saving grace was the $1,200 COVID-19 relief check we received from the federal government, but that has long since ran out.  

Having survived homelessness, I am thankful for the roof over my head and the job I have, but my family is still stretched too thin, and I know that’s true for families all over our state, particularly for Black, Indigenous, Families of Color, and immigrant families. As a childcare provider myself, I’ve done everything in my power to keep working. I know how hard it is to juggle all of these demands at once. I also know it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Right now, our state legislature is convening for the 2021 legislative session where they will decide how our state moves forward and what the future will look like for families like mine. I want to be clear: Families of Color and immigrant families like mine are in crisis. Without bold, immediate, and far-reaching action, we will never recover from this. 

According to a recent jobs report, women account for 100% of the jobs lost in December 2020 across the country, with the worst rates of unemployment being experienced by Women of Color. That’s no coincidence. The lack of childcare and impact of the pandemic on schooling is directly impacting women’s careers already. If states like Washington start reducing budgets for childcare and education even more, women, particularly Women of Color, will face an even greater uphill battle. And the reality is that the shortages and gaps in those spaces existed long before COVID-19. The pandemic has just put them on full display. 

Moms and parents are counting on state lawmakers like never before. We need immediate cash assistance to families through a Working Families Tax Credit. We need emergency funding to childcare providers and the families who depend on them — it is not possible for parents to recover without reliable care for their children. And we need investments in the range of support necessary for families to recover — from housing assistance to extra support for students falling behind in school. We can fund this and more if we finally ask ultra-rich individuals and businesses to finally pay their fair share in taxes and turn our upside down tax code right side up.  

I’m thankful for how far my family has come after the many difficulties we’ve faced over the years, but I’m also realistic. We can’t keep going at this pace. It’s unsustainable. The bills and debt we have aren’t going away. Washington’s leaders need to take action now, so my family and working people around our state can survive.


Scarlett To is an advocate and parent in south King County and a member of MomsRising.

The featured image of the Washington state capitol building is attributed to LisArt (under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license).

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