For three decades, in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Washington State Legislature, Jim has devoted his efforts to the needs of working families, the sick, the vulnerable, and the impoverished. Prior to election to the State Legislature, Jim was a practicing psychiatrist with the State of Washington and King County, and he served on the faculty of Medicine at the University of Washington. As Chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means’ Income Security and Family Support subcommittee (now the Human Resources subcommittee), Jim guided major legislation into law, and he conducted frequent public hearings on ways to reduce poverty, help dislocated workers and protect children. He remains active on the subcommittee - serving the people of Seattle and all Americans in need - and recently unveiled a comprehensive agenda to end poverty in America.
Helping Unemployed Workers
Jim authored and fought for major unemployment insurance (UI) extensions and reforms that were signed into law, which helped workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own during the recession. These new laws are the most significant improvements in UI since the system was created in 1935. They extended UI benefits to more than 13 million Americans, increased weekly benefits for nearly 23 million jobless workers, and provided incentives to 38 states to modernize their UI programs and better cover low-wage and part-time workers. Jim vehemently opposes proposals to reverse these improvements and to abolish the UI system’s guarantee of support.
Meeting the Needs of Children in Foster Care
Jim authored a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s foster care system – the "Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act” - which was signed into law in 2008. The bipartisan law provides new federal assistance to relatives caring for foster children, extends federal support for foster children to the age of 21, improves oversight of the health and education needs of foster children, and allows direct federal payments for tribal foster care programs.
To build on these reforms, Jim recently authored child welfare waiver legislation (H.R. 1194), to renew the authority of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to grant waivers for state demonstration projects to test innovative child welfare programs. This bipartisan legislation was included in a bill that was passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law by President Obama. With this legislation, Washington State and other states can continue developing the next generation of innovation and reform to meet the needs of children in foster care.
Improving TANF, Job Training and Education
In the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, Jim used his leadership position on the Income Security Subcommittee to secure crucial assistance for families through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Provisions authored by Jim provided $5 billion to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund, which helped states meet rising needs among families and also created jobs for working parents. Thirty-seven states used Emergency Funds to create more than 250,000 jobs through subsidized employment programs to hire unemployed workers.
Reaching Refugees and Persons with Disability
As Chairman of the Income Security Subcommittee, Jim authored and passed legislation in 2008 to extend vital public assistance to elderly and disabled refugees. This bipartisan legislation extended the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility period by two years, aiding thousands of refugees who came to America in search of a better life but need basic assistance in their pursuit of full citizenship. Jim has introduced legislation this year to extend this assistance and to address other refugee needs.
Experts have long agreed that the “official” measure of poverty, created in the early 1960’s, is badly outdated. Based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, Jim introduced legislation – the "Measuring American Poverty Act" to develop and report a more accurate measure of poverty. His legislative proposal and subcommittee hearings are reflected in the Obama Administration’s decision to develop and report a Supplemental Poverty Measure alongside the official measure. Jim intends to reintroduce legislation to ensure that a modern poverty measure becomes permanent.