Skip to content

W&M Examines America’s Changing Poverty Map

February 15, 2017

The House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE), today held a hearing to examine how poverty is changing around the country and to explore solutions to the challenges Members are seeing in their own communities.

Committee Member

The traditional geography of poverty is changing. In recent years, poverty has shifted from cities to the suburbs, while poverty rates in rural areas are consistently higher than rates in urban communities. As the geography of poverty—and the different challenges facing our communities—continues to evolve, Ways and Means Republicans are working to develop local solutions—not one-size-fits-all policies—to help more Americans climb the economic ladder.

Recognizing a diverse set of needs across the country, Chairman Smith stressed the importance of finding those different solutions to reach one, shared goal:

“Our instinct might be to think rural Nebraska and urban Chicago are so vastly different they have nothing in common. But what we are charged to do in this subcommittee is to find ways for individuals and families to succeed, and those challenges are universal, even if they require different solutions … It’s important we realize and respect the differences between the constituencies we represent, as too often Congress proposes national, one-size-fits-all solutions when local flexibility is really what’s needed.”

As Tammy Slater, CEO of Goodwill Industries of Greater Nebraska, whose efforts to address poverty span across 55 counties, explained:

It’s not just one service … It has to be collaboration, it’s not just one of any of us. It’s all of us coming together and making sure we understand what each of us brings to the table. So, Chairman Smith, the first answer would be flexibility to be able to reach out to the proper services that will meet that individual’s needs.” 

Discussing the mix of urban and rural communities she serves, Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) asked Ms. Slater to share what collaborative strategies have been a success in Nebraska that could be applied in other communities. Ms. Slater said:

“It’s about people. It’s about people working together that are there to actually serve the people we are seeing every day … It’s asking for help, it’s actually acknowledging what your core is and what cores come from other agencies … You cannot be good at everything.” 

Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) illustrated how unique each community’s challenges are. In his rural district, factories have closed and left many working-age adults unemployed. He said: 

“Forty-nine percent of adults in my district are not in the labor force and the poverty rate is 20 percent … When nearly half of adults in my district aren’t working and are out of the labor force entirely, our communities are deeply in trouble.”

Ways and Means Republicans are working to advance solutions that will get people back to work, focus on results, and provide local flexibility to meet the diverse needs of every community and lift more Americans out of poverty.

CLICK HERE for more information about today’s hearing.