On Tuesday, March 21, 2023, the Washington State Senate Committee on Ways & Means, held a hearing on HB 1176 on developing opportunities for service and workforce programs to support climate-ready communities. Next100 policy entrepreneur, Robert Godfried, submitted written testimony to express support for HB 1176. This testimony, which is included in its entirety below, applauds the Washington State Senate for its commitment to address climate change and reduce the financial barriers to participating in national service through HB1176. Robert also calls for the proposed legislation to extend a higher living allowance to all AmeriCorps members serving in Washington State.
The full text of Robert Godfried’s written testimony is presented below.
The Washington State Senate Committee on Ways & Means
Honorable Senator Christine Rolfes, Chair
Re: Written testimony to express my support for HB 1176 to create a Washington Climate Corps
March 21, 2023
Testimony of Next100
Good afternoon Chair Christine Rolfes and esteemed members of the Washington State Senate Committee on Ways & Means. My name is Robert Godfried and I am submitting written testimony to express my support for HB 1176 to create a Washington Climate Corps. I am an AmeriCorps alumnus and Policy Entrepreneur at Next100, a startup think tank working to diversify the policy sector and empower impacted communities to shape public policy. At Next100, I research and advocate for policies to create more equitable national service, including through climate corps.
I applaud the bold action to address the threat of climate change by the Washington State Senate through HB 1176. The bill sets the stage to build a pipeline into green climate jobs while ensuring that Washington is well-positioned to take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by the transition to a clean energy economy. To ensure that all members of Washington State experience the benefits of this green transition, it is critical that the Washington Climate Corps is equitable and centers underserved and disproportionately impacted communities.
I applaud the legislation’s emphasis on reducing financial barriers to service members by increasing their living allowance to meet or exceed the living wage in the county where they serve. When I served in AmeriCorps I helped tenants fight unjust evictions but was unable to afford my own rent due to the meager AmeriCorps living stipend, forcing me to move back in with my parents. Through my current work, I have met numerous current AmeriCorps members and alums and learned that housing insecurity due to the low living stipend is far too common an experience for AmeriCorps members across the country. A higher living allowance would allow more people to serve in the Washington Climate Corps and ensure that these opportunities are available to all Washingtonians regardless of economic background.
This bill has a critical flaw, which is that it fails to extend this higher living allowance to all AmeriCorps members in the state. Failing to do so would create a two-tiered unequal system where members performing critical service work in their communities, such as building affordable housing, are set to be paid a fraction of what those in the climate corps receive. This unequal system could create a negative incentive structure where young people flock to the climate corps program making the slots highly competitive and locking out many of the underserved community members this bill aims to support. The living wage stipend proposed in this bill should be extended to all who choose to serve in Washington, regardless of if they serve in the climate corps or any of the critical service programs run by Serve Washington. The Washington Climate Corps should also make it a goal that corps members are representative of the communities in which they serve. This can be achieved by providing Serve Washington with the additional funds and logistical support necessary to collect and analyze demographic data from all service programs in the state to support and hold programs accountable in recruiting representative corps members.
Next, I cheer the legislature’s focus on workforce development as a key aspect of the Washington Climate Corps. It is critical that serving in the program not only builds a more resilient Washington, but also equips those who serve with the training, skills, and job placement necessary to later pursue a job in green energy. To ensure that this workforce development training is effective, this training should be informed by the green energy industry’s needs and adaptive based on changing circumstances. To ensure this workforce development training is effective, climate service programs should track post-service outcomes for members and collect data on how many members end up in full-time jobs one year after their term of service. Serve Washington can later use these data to evaluate programs and ensure that the Climate Corps supports programs that fight climate change while setting up their service members to transition into green energy careers.
The creation of the Washington Climate Corps through the passage of HB 1176 would establish Washington as a national leader in combating climate change. The climate corps presents the opportunity to create a pathway into green energy careers for thousands of young people all while building a more climate-resistant Washington. I hope you will consider the additional equity recommendations I outline above to ensure that the Washington Climate Corps and Serve Washington-supported programs are accessible to all who wish to serve.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide written testimony.
Policy Entrepreneur, Next100