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Walorski Opening Statement at a Hearing on Combatting Child Poverty in America

March 11, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Jackie Walorski (R-IN) delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee Hearing on Combatting Child Poverty in America.

CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Chairman Davis.

“I appreciate your holding this hearing today on how to address child poverty in America. First, I want to acknowledge we are all thinking of those impacted by coronavirus across the country, and I want to thank the witnesses for still joining us today.

“I’m glad this subcommittee has been able to work together on a bipartisan basis to help families in need, most recently with passage of the Family First Transition Act, which the President signed into law in December. I hope we can continue to work together on this important issue as well.

“Overall, we’ve made important strides when it comes to alleviating poverty and expanding opportunity in America, but even one American child in poverty is one too many. We know poverty has many detrimental outcomes for children and affects families, communities, and society as a whole.

“Thanks to pro-growth policies like tax reform, unemployment is at a 50-year low, median household income is increasing, and workers and families in every part of our economy have enjoyed a share of the prosperity.

“With incomes rising for Americans, the poverty rate is at its lowest since 2001. We’re lifting families out of poverty and moving them back into the front lines of the labor market, empowering people to live better lives.

“As we discuss ways to reduce child poverty, we cannot ignore the vital role of economic growth. We’re seeing that opportunity can do more for child poverty than any government program. Our goal should be to fuel self-reliance through work and opportunity that allow people to pursue their American Dream.

“Over the last several decades, federal spending on programs targeted toward children has increased substantially. According to the Urban Institute’s Kids Share report, in 2018, federal expenditures on children in poverty totaled more than $485 billion dollars.

“The social safety net is needed to help those who fall on hard times get back on their feet – especially families with children. The question is – how well is it working?

“One of the reasons, I helped launch the bipartisan What Works Caucus is to make sure taxpayer dollars are invested in programs that are backed by evidence and data. Rigorous evaluations of anti-poverty programs will improve outcomes for children, families, and communities nationwide.

“For too long there has been a lack of accountability and evidence about whether programs actually work.

“Even when there are alarm bells about accountability, existing spending is often not questioned.

“For example, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – or TANF – program has been extended 42 times with no changes, despite evidence of widespread misuse of funds by states. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road on TANF. Poor children suffer when TANF funds are allowed to go unaccounted for and repurposed to fill state budget holes.

“Another example is from a recent evaluation of the Health Professional Opportunity Grants – or HPOGs – program, which showed no impact on employment or earnings of participants.

“If we are serious about reducing child poverty, we need to be vigilant stewards of taxpayer dollars. We cannot afford to continue to fund ineffective programs that fail families.

“That is why Republicans on this Committee have supported a comprehensive reauthorization of TANF through the Jobs for Success Act. Our goals are to better target funding, improve state accountability, and strengthen the focus on reducing child poverty.  

“We also want to support proven programs like the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting – or MIECHV – program that relies on evidence-based interventions and has demonstrated results, including in my home state of Indiana.

“I hope as part of this discussion on reducing child poverty we don’t lose sight of improving the effectiveness of investments taxpayers are already making.

“I look forward to the ways we can work together to help improve the overall well-being of children and use this as an opportunity to harness the power of evidence and data to ensure we are investing in what works.

“With that, I yield back.”