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West Coast Poverty Center

RFA for WCPC Mini-Grants to support researcher-practitioner collaboration

The West Coast Poverty Center (WCPC) invites applications for mini-grants to support research collaborations between WCPC scholars and local non-profits on topics related to poverty, economic security, and individual or family financial well-being, broadly construed. These awards of up to $12,000 are intended to both help partner CBOs answer questions that are relevant to their work in the region and help academic partners inform or broaden research agendas. Prior projects have included pilot studies and data collection, initial data analyses, and the development of applications for larger sources of funding.  


Learn more HERE.

Did Poverty Increase During the First Year of the Pandemic?

It’s complicated…..According to new data from the US Census Bureau, the official poverty rate for the nation rose from 10.5% to 11.2% between 2019 and 2020. This official measure does not capture the impact of safety net benefits such as Social Security and other income supports, nor does it attempt to account for variation in the cost of living or other expenses. When those benefits and geographic variation are considered in a separate metric known as the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), the estimated SPM poverty rate for 2020 is 9.1% (down from 11.8% in 2019). This decline during the pandemic reflects the impacts of the government’s temporary economic relief efforts including stimulus payments and expanded Unemployment Insurance payments.  For some analysis of measures of hardship in WA during this period of the pandemic, click here.

Estimates of pandemic-related hardship in Washington State

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse survey, WCPC Director Jennie Romich and UW graduate student Callie Frietag find that nearly 1 in 6 Washingtonians faced food, housing, or financial hardship this winter. These hardship rates have remained relatively steady between April 2020 and early February 2021.  Renters; households with children; Black, Hispanic, multiracial and other non-white Washingtonians were significantly more likely to experience at least one form of hardship relative to homeowners; households with children; and white and Asian Washingtonians, respectively. Read the full memo HERE.

Poverty Forecast for Washington State amid COVID-19 Crisis

How will the pandemic affect poverty rates in Washington State? WCPC Director Jennie Romich and UW graduate student Ellie Terry recently examined what may happen to poverty rates in Washington State as a result of the Covid-19-related unemployment. In April, Washington’s unemployment rate stood at 15.4%. If the relationship between poverty and unemployment maintains its recent historical relationship, this means that the state’s official poverty rate may soon stand at 15% with 3 in 10 Washingtonians falling below the broader poverty indicator favored by Governor Inslee’s Poverty Reduction Work Group. Read the full memo HERE.

WCPC Mini-Grant Awards Support Joint Academic-Practitioner Research Projects

Recent collaborative mini-grant projects have included:

  • Katherine Beckett (Law, Societies, and Justice) worked with the Public Defenders Association to study a local program (CO-LEAD) to provide housing and supports to justice-involved individuals otherwise facing homelessness. In addition to better understanding the needs and circumstances of the jail-involved, unstably housed population during the current pandemic, the team explored what the experiences of these clients reveal about the social investments that might be necessary to complement decarceration efforts.
  • Rachel Fyall (Evans School of Public Policy and Governance) and Matt Fowle worked with the Tenants Union to understand the experiences of low-income renters during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the impacts on tenants’ housing security over the course of the crisis and their reports about the extent to which landlords comply with eviction moratoria and other policies seeking to reduce the likelihood of eviction.
  • Lynne Manzo (Department of Landscape Architecture) is working with Wa Na Wari to document the pressing challenges, needs, and concerns of Black homeowners and artists in continuing to live, work, create and build community in the Central District and hear how they would prioritize addressing them. In particular, the team seeks to learn what adaptive models of ownership and cultural place-making Black homeowners and artists are interested in exploring.

These grants are possible because of support from the Seattle Foundation.

Upcoming Seminars

Our public seminar series is on hiatus. Students may continue to enroll in SOC WL556 for credit in the meantime. Please contact for more information about registering for the Poverty and Policy Seminar. 


WCPC activities are supported by core funding from the UW School of Social Work.

Support for the West Coast Poverty Center activities has also been provided by:

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, US Department of Health and Human Services

Marguerite M. Casey Foundation

Russell Sage Foundation

Paul G. Allen Family Foundation

United Way of King County

The Seattle Foundation

UW College of Arts and Sciences

UW Evans School of Public Policy and Governance

UW Graduate School

UW School of Social Work