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HEARING: Ways and Means Members Leading Effort to Combat Poverty

March 01, 2016

Members of the Human Resources Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), today held the first in a series of hearings to address a problem plaguing our nation: poverty.

According to recent data, the most common cause of poverty is a lack of work. That’s why today’s discussion engaged job creators – those uniquely suited to help low-income individuals find jobs, grow their careers, and escape poverty.

As Rep. Buchanan said:

“As a business owner myself, I know there is an important role employers are playing in providing real work opportunities for job seekers to compete and succeed in the workplace. I’ve seen firsthand how a job can change a person’s outlook on life and shape a brighter future.”

Echoing Chairman Buchanan’s sentiments, President and CEO of Dallas County Workforce Development Board Laurie Bouillion Larrea said:

“I’ve witnessed dramatic swings in the economy, talent requirements, and public subsidies. The only constant has been that meaningful work benefits families better than welfare.”

As Cascade Engineering Executive Vice President Kenyetta Brame explained, his company’s Welfare to Career program has helped hundreds of families breakthrough a tradition of generational poverty.”

Take the story of Amy Valderas, a single mother, out of work and on welfare. As Brame described, because of the opportunities provided by Cascade Engineering, today, Amy earns a competitive income, owns her own home, and has sent two of her three children through college.


Members and witnesses discussed the need to reform the nation’s welfare system so when people like Amy move from welfare to work, everyone is better off. As Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson said:

“The goal of these [welfare] programs should be to get Americans who have fallen on hard times back on their feet – a life line, not a lifestyle. While necessary, entitlement programs can have the unintended consequences of creating dependency, exacerbating the underlying issues and enabling a system that keeps those within it captive, unable to climb out.”

When Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), who represents the 18th poorest district in the country, asked how states and businesses can improve welfare-to-work opportunities, Brame replied:

Actually go in and see what the businesses are doing. Sometimes that’s the biggest disconnect when you have a social agency trying to provide employment to someone or spend dollars on a specific program and they don’t know what they employers need or want. Asking the employers what they need, understanding what they need will cause programs to be much more successful.”

Reforming the nation’s welfare system lies at the heart of our effort to help all Americans – regardless of their social or economic circumstances – earn their own success. That’s why Ways and Means Republicans are working to advance bold solutions that ensure our welfare system serves the best interests of low–income individuals, employers, and taxpayers. Stay tuned for more committee action on this issue in the months ahead.