Skip to content

Ways and Means Members Are Taking Action to Reform Our Nation’s Welfare System, Help Americans Escape Poverty

June 02, 2017

Reforming our nation’s welfare programs lies at the heart of the Ways and Means Committee’s effort to help all Americans achieve their own success and move up the economic ladder. With over 43 million Americans still living in poverty, it’s clear we must move forward with commonsense reforms that deliver real results.

The Human Resources Subcommittee is leading the way on the Committee’s important work to reform our nation’s welfare programs and improve lives across America. Over the last several months, the Human Resources Subcommittee has held hearings to discuss the best ways to address America’s changing poverty map that spans from urban to rural communities, help young adults move up the economic ladder to break the cycle of poverty, and improve the lives of families in at-risk communities. After hearing from witnesses about what works – and what doesn’t – Ways and Means Members are moving forward with positive solutions that:

  • Empower communities to develop local solutions to successfully address their own unique needs, not top-down policies from Washington. At a hearing on February 15th, Members learned more about how the traditional poverty map is shifting from cities to the suburbs while rates remain persistently high in rural areas. As the geography of poverty continues to shift, it’s critical to develop local solutions. Tammy Slater, CEO of Goodwill Industries of Greater Nebraska, said: “Serving rural residents impacted by poverty is an opportunity and a challenge. While many of the challenges are similar for urban and rural areas facing poverty, the solutions can be significantly different.”

  • Emphasize work and focus on outcomes for all Americans, particularly for the 5.5 million 16 to 24 year olds who are not in school and are not working. The Committee is looking to the private sector – such as a program called Year Up – for innovative examples of how to help at-risk young adults find success through not just school, but work-based experiences, such as employer-sponsored internships and apprenticeships. As Year Up founder Gerald Chertavian said at a May 17th hearing: “Have the incentives follow the outcomes we want primarily. And I think you’ve got to start with the employer and work backwards as to what the employer needs, which is skilled talent.”

  • Support programs that deliver real results to ensure limited taxpayer dollars are targeted towards evidence-based practices that help young families in at-risk communities, such as the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. At a March 15th hearing about MIECHV funding, Members heard from a young mother named Rosa who – through a MIECHV-funded program – had a nurse home visitor, Beth, support her during her pregnancy and first two years of motherhood. In discussing the steps she takes to help young mothers set goals and become a successful parent, Beth said: “In every instance, I meet the client where she is … I work with each client to help her to establish and pursue her education, employment, and life course development goals.”

In the coming months, Ways and Means Members will continue to work to extend and improve the MIECHV program and replicate its evidence-based success in other welfare programs so more children, young adults, and families can receive real help to improve their lives and escape poverty.