The problem with our welfare program, as it stands today is that it disincentives work by keeping people on programs who have fallen on hard times and wastes taxpayer dollars on bureaucratic inefficiencies. The solution offered over the years to address the issue of poverty has been to increase spending and add to the long list of programs; unfortunately, this approach has not allowed people to become self-sufficient. Americans deserve a better, more effective system that provides real help to get those in need standing on their own two feet.
Speaker Paul Ryan and Members of the House want to show that there is a better way to do things, starting with this issue of combating poverty and promoting upward mobility for all Americans, regardless of circumstances of their birth. Last week, Speaker Ryan rolled out the first part of the “Better Way” plan, including reforms that will incentivize work over welfare to get people out of poverty, tailor benefits to fit people’s actual needs, improve education and promote financial planning.
Since finding work is the critical first step for getting out of poverty, the plan includes reforms to programs such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), federal rental assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to include work requirements. Under the status quo, beneficiaries of these programs can lose benefits as soon as they accept a job, receive a promotion, or even get married. The system should not punish people for taking a step forward to becoming more self-reliant. This plan will allow for more choice and give states the ability to repackage benefits to fit specific needs of individuals and families.
Another important front in the fight against poverty is giving our children more opportunities in education. To truly break the cycle of poverty, we need to ensure a generation born into poverty has the chance to succeed and break out. This plan includes all levels of education, from early childhood to trade school or college or trade schooling. Policies to promote early childhood development, improve childhood nutrition programs, enhance workforce development and reform financial aid can put kids on a path to success with the tools they need to enter the workforce and be successful.
We also must ensure individuals and families are taking the necessary steps to plan for the future. Nearly 9.6 million households in America do not have bank accounts, and another 24.8 million have bank accounts, but use services outside the financial system. As part of this plan, we want to expand the access to basic banking services and reign in regulations that limit consumer choice. The plan will also ensure reforms are made to give low- and middle-income families access to affordable retirement advice.
The last piece to improve the welfare system is opening up the system to make it more accountable and collaborative. This means promoting competition among states and shutting down programs that do not show positive results. This plan measures the success of programs on effectiveness, not the old way which focused primarily on the amount of taxpayer money spent.
I hope we can come together in Congress to implement these important policies that will improve the lives of individuals and families struggling with poverty. More information about this plan can be found at www.better.gop . If you have questions or comments about this or any other issue facing the federal government, I invite you to call my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-2015, Hilliard office at (614) 771-4968, Lancaster office at (740) 654-2654 or Wilmington office at (937) 283-7049.
Steve Stivers is a member of Congress from Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.