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(Yakima, WA) – At a celebration attended by dozens of residents, growers and advocates, Senator Patty Murray today announced that she has secured an additional $1.5 million in federal funding to support the Washington State Farmworker Housing Trust.

Senator Murray's remarks follow:

I'm so excited to be here to celebrate what all of you have accomplished and to announce new funding to give even more families safe, decent, affordable housing. Throughout our state, people are coming together to address challenges like jobs, transportation, and education. For many years, the challenge of farmworker housing seemed like it was stuck in neutral. There was a sense of division that made it hard for different sides to come together and make progress. But all of you had the courage to reach across the lines and help our state do the right thing.

You turned farmworker housing from a stalemate to a success. You built a partnership that is housing families, helping growers, and supporting communities. Now, when people in other states try to address farmworker housing, they look at Washington State and say it can be done. All of us recognize that farmworker housing is a moral issue, an economic issue, and a family issue. Too many workers and their families face very difficult living conditions. Some live in their cars. Others share run-down, overcrowded rooms with other families. These are not the kinds of living conditions we can tolerate in the United States in the 21st Century. They are certainly not suitable for the people who help put food on our tables and who keep our state's economy strong. We can do better, and all of you recognized that and got to work.

This all started several years ago, when I secured $1 million to assist growers with on-farm infrastructure needs. At that same time, the State of Washington created a $40 million fund to address community-based housing shortages. These efforts represented a great first step. But I knew it would take more. It would take leadership: people who could sit down together and come up with solutions, it would take more state and federal dollars, and it would take flexible foundation funding. So in 2003, I called together 16 leaders from around the state to create the Washington State Farmworker Housing Trust. I asked them to research the problem and develop a plan. And I promised that I would work as their partner to make that plan a reality.

To help launch the Trust, I secured funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Since then, the Trust and its members have soared even beyond my own expectations. They created a partnership between agencies, growers, and farm worker advocates. They facilitated the development or improvement of thousands of units of on-farm housing. And that's not all. Our trust members incorporated as a non-profit, figured out the needs, surveyed the best practices, and are now working to expand the pool of resources to eradicate this crisis.

The Trust Board brought many new players to the table, including the philanthropic community. Now companies, foundations, and grant makers understand the challenge of farmworker housing and are getting involved. So many people have been part of this effort. I especially want to thank Frank Chopp and Phyllis Kenney for pushing our state Legislature to do more. I want to thank the Trust Board Members and all of their advisory and philanthropic partners for their vision and continued commitment. I want to thank the growers and the farmworker advocates. And I want to thank great organizations like the Washington Housing Authorities, the Diocese of Yakima and Washington, Mike Lowry’s Organization the Washington Agricultural Families Assistance Corporation, and the Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing for their perseverance. Thousands of people in rural Washington have decent, affordable places to live thanks to all of your efforts.

I know we have a very strong foundation of partners and leaders who are working to solve the crisis. That is why I am so pleased to announce today that I have secured an additional $1.5 million in federal funding to support your work. These dollars will help you serve more people, improve the infrastructure, and provide a range of housing options for hard working families. In Washington, D.C. many housing programs are being cut, including Section 8 and other lifelines for working families. It wasn't easy to secure this funding in a tight budget year, but I know it will be worthwhile and will make a big difference for the families you serve. Working families have a right to dignity. They have a right to safe, decent affordable housing, and you make that a reality.

I’m so proud of the work you’ve done, and I’m proud to continue as your partner in the effort to create a better and more sustainable agricultural community in Washington state. I'm looking forward to hearing from some of our partners and the families they serve. Again, thank you all for being here, and let’s continue the fight.

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