Undocumented workers, a crucial cog in the economy, are left in poverty amid coronavirus

Undocumented workers, especially in the transportation, construction and service industries, have been hit hard by the coronavirus but have been left out of stimulus efforts. This is despite paying more than $300 million in state and local taxes in Washington State, and many of their employers contributing to the unemployment relief fund. While some cities and states have launched their own relief efforts, there has been pushback on social media and Fox News commentators have demanded to know why undocumented workers should receive taxpayer help.

Covering Your Climate: Pacific Northwest Rides Adaptation Wave

The final entry in our multi-week “Covering Your Climate: The Emerald Corridor” special report explores how the Pacific Northwest is adapting to climate change, whether it’s new approaches to working the land, changing critical infrastructure or rethinking our mindset. Read this last tipsheet, plus check out our earlier reports on climate mitigation and on climate impacts, plus our stage-setting backgrounder and a reporter’s resource toolkit.

Foster-care funding falls short of ending hotel-stay crisis

With Washington forcing a record number of traumatized foster youth into overnight hotel stays that further destabilize them — at a tremendous cost to taxpayers — lawmakers in Olympia have sent the governor a budget that seems unlikely to solve the problem. Legislators last week approved nearly $16 million in new funding to try to stem the hotel-overnight crisis. The new money has the potential to restore 26 spots for foster youth lost earlier this year at one Seattle facility, Ryther, and create perhaps more than 70 new ones. Yet, it might not be enough to fix the system: The department racked up more than 1,500 hotel overnights for almost 300 foster children in the most recent year measured, ending in August 2019. Ryther, a children’s mental-health agency, offers an example of how lawmakers’ efforts may come up short.

Farming to help the climate: Two bills in Olympia promote “regenerative agriculture”

Bills in the Washington Legislature would help scientists learn about storing carbon in agricultural soils, as well as letting farmers invest in GPS-guided tractors and climate-friendly cattle feed. While both bills have bi-partisan support and reflect recognition that farm soil can play a key role in slowing the rise of greenhouse gases, but some fear that it won’t benefit all farmers.

Would you like forks with that? Legislation aims to end disposable plasticware in WA

Legislation being considered in the Washington Legislature phase in a ban on plastic cutlery and other food-service products accompanying ready-to-eat food, effectively making the state’s takeout industry go compostable-only. Associated fees would fund the upgrade of state facilities to process the compostable utensils and containers. Environmentalists see the legislation as a step in the right direction, but grocery, restaurant and chemical industries feel that existing state taxes on food-service items should pay for the upgrades.

Legislature eyes ways to control speculators buying Washington water rights

Several upcoming bills in the Washington Legislature aim to take on the state’s convoluted water rights system, which balances two conflicting positions – that water is a public resource stewarded by the state, and that water rights are private property. While legislators want to cut out water speculators who are looking to make a profit on water, farmers, builders and environmental stewardship organizations fear that regulations could impede community water banks.

Foster parents struggle against retaliation by state caseworkers

In addition to the shortage of foster homes in Washington state, foster parents often cite retaliation by state case workers as a major issue. Widespread enough to be acknowledged by state child-welfare officials, these punitive measures can involve threats to remove foster children or reduce monthly state support payments. This is creating a culture of fear among foster parents and further exacerbate the foster care crisis in Washington state.