NEWS GLEAMS | WA State Extends Health Insurance to Undocumented People; Juarez and Herbold Will Not Seek Reelection

A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!

curated by Vee Hua 華婷婷

✨Gleaming This Week✨

Photo depicting a group of protestors 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, D.C., Feb. 25, 2017. Photo is attributed to Ted Etyan (under a Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0 license).

Washington Becomes the First State to Expand Health Insurance to Undocumented Immigrants

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

According to The Hill, “The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Treasury Department approved Washington’s application for a State Innovation Waiver, issued under Section 1332 of the ACA. The application for this waiver was submitted 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 terms and conditions set forth from the federal government, the waiver will go into effect from 2024 to 2028.

The expansion of health care access for undocumented immigrants comes as a result of labor from a coalition of grassroots organizations, including but not limited to Northwest Health Law Advocates, ACLU of Washington, and members of WAISN, the largest immigrant-led organization and a grassroots coalition of over 400 immigrant and refugee rights organizations.

According to WAISN’s press release, they will lead community members to Olympia on Feb. 16 for the annual Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Day. They hope to meet with legislators regarding 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 unanimously voted 9-0 to once again temporarily extend COVID-19-era policies which support expediting 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 involved process.

“We will continue reforming Design Review to improve the program and streamline bureaucratic functions that slow our ability to bring housing online quickly,” said Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6 — Northwest Seattle), chair of the Land Use Committee, in the City Council’s press release. “I have seen firsthand in my work addressing homelessness that when we have shelter availability, we are able to bring people off the streets. With adequate affordable housing, we reduce the time people spend in shelter and each shelter bed serves more people, meaning we bring more people off the streets.” 

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

It was first passed in April 2020 and extended later that year in October 2020, with an expiration of December 30, 2022. This interim legislation upholds the following regulations for up to one year:  

  • Allow developments to opt out of design review if at least 40% of units are affordable to households with income not greater than 60% of Area Median Income (AMI).  
  • Authorize the director of the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) to waive or modify certain development standards for projects opting out of Design Review as a Type I (which means non-appealable) decision, if the waiver (1) does not impact the height, bulk and scale of the development and (2) results in more affordable units. 
  • Approve a work program for consideration of permanent changes to the Design Review Program. 

Following this year, Councilmember Strauss and Mayor Harrell will develop further long-term legislation. Future bills may possibly do the following: 

  • 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 full Design Review or administrative Design Review as a two-year pilot.

Council President Juarez and Councilmember Herbold Will Not Seek Reelection

In the past week, both Seattle City Council President Debora Juarez (District 5 — North Seattle) and Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1 — West Seattle, South Park) announced that they will not seek reelection. Their terms will end Dec. 31, 2023.

Councilmember Juarez, a member of the Blackfeet Nation and first Indigenous person on the City Council, was elected to office in 2015 and reelected in 2019. She hinted in a Dec. 12 City Council meeting, “This is my last year here, so I’m trying to get a lot done.”

This news was confirmed to Crosscut by council spokesperson Dana Robinson-Slote, who wrote to them, “It’s a conversation that has been underway for some time now, and both her term of service and in a leadership capacity will conclude next year, 2023.”

In a press release, Councilmember Herbold summarized her accomplishments in 2023 and followed by writing, “I will not be running for reelection in 2023. Above my love of public service to the constituents of District 1, I don’t want the council to lose a progressive voice on the council.”

“The 2022 elections last month were good for progressives. I feel like it’s time to do my part to create an open-seat election in District 1,” she continued. “I believe that an open seat can better drive turnout and deliver District 1 to another progressive.”

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