Hearing on Improving the Safety Net to Ensure Families Receive Real Help
Hearing on Improving the Safety Net to Ensure Families Receive Real Help
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES
COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED THIRTEENTH CONGRESS
July 31, 2013
Printed for the use of the Committee on Ways and Means
COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS
SAM JOHNSON, Texas
|SANDER M. LEVIN, Michigan
CHARLES B. RANGEL, New York
JIM MCDERMOTT, Washington
JOHN LEWIS, Georgia
RICHARD E. NEAL, Massachusetts
XAVIER BECERRA, California
LLOYD DOGGETT, Texas
MIKE THOMPSON, California
JOHN B. LARSON, Connecticut
EARL BLUMENAUER, Oregon
RON KIND, Wisconsin
BILL PASCRELL, JR., New Jersey
JOSEPH CROWLEY, New York
ALLYSON SCHWARTZ, Pennsylvania
DANNY DAVIS, Illinois
LINDA SÁNCHEZ, California
JENNIFER M. SAFAVIAN, Staff Director and General Counsel
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES
TODD YOUNG, Indiana
|LLOYD DOGGETT, Texas
JOHN LEWIS, Georgia
JOSEPH CROWLEY, New York
DANNY DAVIS, Illinois
Advisory of July 31, 2013 announcing the hearing
Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families
Director, Arizona Department of Economic Security
Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services
Chief Executive Officer, Housing Authority of Winston-Salem
Hearing on Improving the Safety Net to Ensure Families Receive Real Help
U.S. House of Representatives,
Committee on Ways and Means,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 2:06 p.m., in Room 1100, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Dave Reichert [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
[The advisory of the hearing follows:]
Chairman Reichert. Welcome to our Subcommittee hearing on “Improving the Safety Net: Better Coordinating Today’s Maze of Programs to Ensure Families Receive Real Help.”
Today’s hearing is the third in a series this summer, and it is set around the theme of reforming programs designed to assist low‑income Americans in going to work and climbing the economic ladder.
Our first hearing highlighted how not working or working less than full‑time is the number one cause of poverty. Despite this fact, the complex interaction between welfare programs often actively discourages work. A few programs designed to help those in need expect recipients to work, train for a job, or look for work. As one of our witnesses testified, instead of help finding a job when she received benefits, the local welfare office offered far less, and, in her words, “They offered just a check.” And that is not nearly enough, as all of us on the panel know and all of us here on the committee recognize.
Our second hearing showed how the Federal Government spends $15,000 per person below the poverty line each year on low‑income programs, yet most programs cannot demonstrate that their spending results in better outcomes for low‑income families. Again, that is just not good enough.
Today’s hearing will review how the current maze of over 80 low‑income programs is poorly coordinated and doesn’t lift low‑income families with children out of poverty for the long run. As we will hear, our State partners have a number of ideas about how we can improve the system so more programs pull in the same direction of helping low‑income Americans work and earn more.
The good news is such steps have been tried and they have been shown to have positive results before. For example, in the 1980s and early 1990s, States tested things like increased work incentives, activity requirements, sanctions, and time limits. Drawing on the lessons learned from those waiver demonstrations, reforms were then made part of the 1996 welfare reforms, and they worked to increase work and earnings and reduce poverty and benefit dependents.
The bad news is the scale of what is required next. As one of our witnesses, Clarence Carter of Arizona, notes in his testimony, the department he heads oversees 40 different safety‑net programs, each with its own objectives, its own rules, and its own funding.
Not surprisingly, these dozens of programs function separately, even though they strive to serve many of the same people in need. It is often said that no one would design a system like this. Yet, every year, we dutifully operate the system. We tolerate its poor outcomes, including too much waste of time and its inefficiency and, ultimately, too much human suffering.
We are here today to ask if there is a better way. And I think you are going to provide us with some insight on new ideas. Is there a better way to serve those in need, to support work and upward mobility, and to engage low‑income adults in activities that lead to self‑sufficiency?
The key question is not how much we spend, even though taxpayers now spend about $1 trillion on those programs every year. Instead, the key question is whether we and/or our State partners can find better ways to achieve real results for those people who need help. I think we can. And I am encouraged that we have serious and seasoned experts with us today to help us think through these critical questions.
This week’s headlines remind us of what is at stake. The Associated Press reported Monday that four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near‑poverty, or reliance on welfare for at least part of their lives. Set against this reality are the programs we are talking about today, which are simply not doing enough to head off poverty and financial insecurity or help people get back on their feet quickly when difficulties arise. We should expect and deliver more.
I look forward to all of your testimony.
And usually at this time, Mr. Doggett would offer a statement, but I think we can reserve that. And when Mr. Doggett arrives, we will allow him to make his statement. So, without objection, we can move on.
I want to remind our witnesses to limit their oral testimony to 5 minutes. However, without objection, all of the written testimony will be made a part of the permanent record.
And on our panel this afternoon, we will be hearing from: Eloise Anderson, secretary, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families; Clarence Carter, director, Arizona Department of Economic Security; Michelle Saddler, secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services; Larry Woods, chief executive officer, Housing Authority of Winston‑Salem.
I also want to mention that, without objection, each member on the committee will have the opportunity to submit a written statement and to have it included in the record.
So, Ms. Anderson, you are first up, recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF ELOISE ANDERSON, SECRETARY, WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
Ms. Anderson. Chairman Reichert and Ranking Member Doggett and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to speak to the committee today.
I am Eloise Anderson, secretary, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. I also chair the Secretary’s Innovation Group, an organization made up of 18 State human service department secretaries and a comparable number of workforce secretaries from States representing 37 percent of America.
Our objective is to share innovative program ideas, advance policies which favor work, economic self‑sufficiency, and healthy families. We believe we have a better way of looking at things because we put all our heads together and think about things. But, given all the programs that all of us administer, we have come to the conclusion that things need to change.
Right now, it excludes disability. Take MA out, we have at least 60 means‑tested programs funded directly by the Federal Government. And that does not include the things that the States do on their own. We have 12 programs providing food aid, 12 programs funding social services, 11 programs for housing assistance, 10 programs providing cash assistance, 9 vocational training programs, 3 energy utility assistance programs, and 3 childcare and child development programs. In addition, the States have their own set of programs, as well. So we have quite a few programs funding the same set of people.
Think about a person who comes into a welfare office or an employment office and we give them all these programs with all these different requirements. And, usually, when we also have a lot of different requirements, we have a lot of different case managers. So what I always say, it is kind of hard to work if every program is expecting you to respond to them. So if I have 60 programs that I am taking up, how many caseworkers do I have to go see every day?
What I like to tell people all the time is that if you come out of prison and you have a probation and a parole officer, you have less supervision than you do if you go on welfare. So you have to think about how many ways we ask people to jump through hoops for these programs. So the first thing is try to make these programs simple.
We believe that an example of where we ought to go, we have already been, and that is when we had moved Aid to Families with Dependent Children to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. We think that that is a prototype that we could look at in terms of how we go forward.
One of the things that happened when we did the TANF change is that welfare dependency was cut in half across the Nation. The employment levels for single moms rose. It went from 63 percent of unmarried women working to 75 percent of them working. It is a huge movement in terms of work.
The thing that, to me, was the biggest change that I think has more impact than anything else is that the overall poverty and child poverty rate dropped dramatically. The black child poverty rate was the lowest in U.S. history. And I think that was a monumental move to be able to do that. There was also a pause in the number of out‑of‑wedlock births given at the time.
And so it is worth looking, I believe, for all our other programs, looking at the experiences that we learned in TANF to try to introduce some of those same experiences into these other programs.
So what does TANF have that the other programs don’t have? And I think one of the things that TANF did in the realignment was it affected the individual recipient, it affected how State and Federal Government operated, and it had a force on families that we never had before. So it aligned the incentives for both the providers and the people who were getting the services in very different ways. It reoriented the participants toward employment.
Now, a lot of people had a lot of problems with us saying that we believed that single moms could work. I used to say to people, you know, I had two neighbors: one on one side of me who got up every morning, single mom, got up every morning and went off to work, took her kids to the daycare; and I had another mother on the other side of me who didn’t go to work. And how did I expect this person on this side of me to take parts of her paycheck and taxes to pay that woman who didn’t go to work? Nothing was wrong with either one of them; they could work. So how could we say that it was okay for one group of women to go into the workforce and not another group of women? So I think that changed, that whole thinking about moms in the workforce changed.
And I think that we probably need some rethinking about our disability in the workforce. And I like to tell people that what really changed my attitude around work and the disabled was I was overseeing a disabled program and a guy came into my office; he was in a wheelchair. He had a pencil in his mouth that he wrote with, and he wrote on his board, “I want to work. I want a job.” I mean, it just totally changed my whole view of work around. And I think the whole Nation, by and large, maybe needs its whole view of work turned around.
So one of the things that I think we are trying to do with the secretaries is to get back to changing our review about work around.
I think there are a couple things that are real important in what we do, and if we don’t do anything else, we make work incentives in all our programs and we put time limits in all our programs. If we put those two things together, I think we will be moving on our way to change the nature and how the poor communities look, because they will look like the middle‑class communities.
Chairman Reichert. Thank you, Ms. Anderson.
[The statement of Ms. Anderson follows:]
Chairman Reichert. Mr. Carter, you are recognized.
STATEMENT OF CLARENCE H. CARTER, DIRECTOR, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC SECURITY
Mr. Carter. Mr. Chairman and members of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources, my name is Clarence Carter. I am the director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, the safety‑net agency for the State.
I am honored to have the opportunity to speak with you today and share some of my insights on the strengths and challenges of our public systems that serve economically and socially challenged Americans and to inform you of the exciting work we are doing in Arizona to reinvent our safety net.
My testimony is derived from a career of 20 years of service in the administration of safety‑net programs and agencies, where it has been my honor and privilege to serve a President, four governors, and a mayor.
Mr. Chairman, I would begin by answering the question that you raised in your opening statement with an emphatic “yes”; there is a better way to go about this ‑‑ our safety net.
I would argue that our safety‑net system is not a system at all. When I was growing up, my father said to me on a number of occasions, “When you are up to your elbows in alligators, it is difficult to remember that your original intention was to drain the swamp.” I think that we have long since forgot what our original intention is. And I would argue that we don’t have overarching intention, and therein lies the challenge that our system suffers from.
Leadership of the safety net at the State and local level has struggled to make incremental changes to the system we administer for years. While these changes are intended to improve the system, they fail to address the central issue: that the safety net is structurally flawed in its design and operation.
I have in my more expansive testimony listed out what we see as the flaws in the system in a more expansive discussion. But they are, first, the flaw of no shared vision. We are guided by all of the visions of the individual programs that we administer. As Secretary Anderson laid out, we are driven by the rules of each and every one of those programs, and so, therefore, we don’t have overarching vision. And so we suffer from: If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.
The next flaw that we have is a flaw of silos, in that all of these individual programs, they all have their own rules, they all have their own funding and their own objectives. And they were not designed to work in conjunction to achieve a broader objective.
One of the operating flaws is one of limited objectives. I will introduce the term “program‑centric,” which refers to the primary focus placed on the program’s objectives. In the administration of the programs, we are principally held accountable for adherence to the rules. While it is our collective aspiration that the person or family served gets better for having received that service, that aspiration is neither spoken nor measured.
This myopic focus on limited program objectives then leads to the other operating flaw of perpetuating dependency. Our current system perpetuates dependency because the rules and objectives of one program, in many instances, compete with the rules and objectives of others. Our ultimate objective must be, where possible, moving persons beyond the need that required them to seek public intervention in the first place. While many of us would say, well, that is our objective, I again highlight that this is unstated, and, therefore, it is not measured.
By inverting the program‑centric system with a person‑centric approach, the benefits, goods, and services are aligned based on the needs of the individual. When you add the vision of increasing the capacity of safety‑net users to reduce their dependency, programs then become tools in which you enhance an individuals’ ability to attain their own level of self‑sufficiency and freedom from the safety net.
We are engaged in an exciting opportunity in Arizona to reinvent the Arizona safety net. Our work begins with a shared vision, and that vision is: Arizonans in need of safety‑net supports achieve their highest‑functioning self through a safety‑net system which is comprehensive, integrated, and operated to intentionally grow their capacity and reduce their dependency on public supports.
And, again, I also have in my broader testimony what are the principles that undergird the initiative that we are working toward.
All of the components parts of our reinvention will come together in a demonstration project where we will test our contention that a system focused on measurably increasing the functioning capacity of safety‑net users toward the goal of reducing their dependency is a better use of public safety‑net resources and, ultimately, benefits the person served and our communities as a whole.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, it is our argument in Arizona and the Nation overall that it is not a lack of expenditures which is our challenge to an effective safety net; rather, it is a lack of vision and a flawed operating construct.
We can tinker around the edges of this system all we want. We will not have appreciable change in the system that serves those in need until we have the courage to admit that this emperor has no clothes and the fortitude to do something about it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reichert. Thank you, Mr. Carter.
[The statement of Mr. Carter follows:]
Chairman Reichert. And I would like to recognize Mr. Davis to introduce our next witness.
Mr. Davis. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And I want to thank you for calling the hearing and for the exciting group of witnesses that we have.
And, of course, especially am I excited about Secretary Michelle Saddler from the State of Illinois, who runs our largest State agency, with 14,000 employees, 200 offices spread throughout the State, and provides services for 2 million families.
She does an outstanding job. I am proud to have known her for at least 20 years. She and her husband have two children, two grandchildren, despite how youthful she looks. So we are delighted to have her.
Thank you so very much.
Chairman Reichert. Thank you, Mr. Davis.
And, Ms. Sadler, you are recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF MICHELLE R.B. SADDLER, SECRETARY, ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES
Ms. Saddler. Thank you very much, Congressman Davis.
Chairman Reichert, Congressman Doggett, and all the members of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources, thank you for allowing me to be here.
Today, I would like to cover four messages:
Number one, streamlining. We in Illinois have streamlined and coordinated our service delivery to help people better navigate the system.
Number two, current flexibility. We have made use of current flexibility in our core benefit programs to improve access to work supports.
Number three, too much. Too much flexibility, in our experience, within the core benefit programs, too much can reduce accountability and, actually, at times be counterproductive.
And, fourth, it works. The safety net works.
So streamlining, current flexibility, too much, and it works. Because of time, I will focus my comments on the first two and how we have streamlined in the State of Illinois.
So, first, we have streamlined our service delivery in Illinois, and we have improved efficiencies to help people better navigate the system. We have done this in two ways. First of all, we have looked for and created efficiencies, and we have also used technology.
When I started as DHS secretary in 2009, our system was broken. We had people in our waiting rooms, crowding the waiting rooms, people who were working but had to take off hours and even days to sit in our waiting rooms to apply for benefits. So, clearly, our system was broken.
Fortunately, we got support from the Work Support Strategies Project, funded largely by the Ford Foundation. And this gave us a framework to review our system, from the environment to our policies to our business processes. We started with quick, easy wins like establishing specialized queues and posting clear signage. We listened to our customers and staff to figure out what in our procedures could change.
Then we also are using technology. Thanks to the 90 percent funding afforded to us by DACA, we are replacing, actually, five of our 30‑year‑old legacy systems with a modern, integrated system that covers Medicaid, TANF, and SNAP. This will allow our customers to apply online 24/7, not having to miss work or come in during our office hours. For our workers, the use of electronic cross‑matches will expedite verification of eligibility factors, increase accuracy, and deter fraud.
So we have streamlined and continue to do so.
Second, we have used current flexibility within the programs to design programs and systems that encourage work participation and to streamline access.
So one excellent example in the State of Illinois is that we used the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund that was part of the stimulus bill, we used that to place 35,000 people in temporary jobs, giving them not only financial support but also valuable work experience and support to our business communities.
There is flexibility already within the TANF block grant, as well. We use this flexibility to significantly increase our investment in child care, making it possible for families to work and providing valuable learning experiences for children.
We have a Work Pays disregard, as well.
And in Medicaid, we are using a current Medicaid waiver to conduct express enrollment of certain SNAP participants into the new Medicaid eligibility group. This avoids conducting redundant application and verification procedures.
So we do make use of the flexibility that we have.
Third, too much flexibility can reduce accountability and, in our experience, be counterproductive. While we as States, yes, we appreciate flexibility, but there can be a cost. And the cost is the fixed funding inherent in the block‑grant structure that we often equate with flexibility.
Flexibility without sufficient resources often forces States to make choices that are detrimental to the families that we serve. As low‑income families become working families, we shift our dollars into work supports. This is what we have experienced in Illinois. Then when the economic need arises, we need to rob working families of the ‑‑ and the work supports to pay our very low‑income families. It is a false choice.
And my last point is that the safety net works. In Illinois, 10,000 cases, 10,000 families graduate from the TANF program every year because of their increased earnings.
Clearly, our safety net provides basic needs for our families. Children need the supplemental nutrition assistance so that they can learn and fulfill their potential. And many families need the safety net even when they are working. Even when they are working full‑time, they need the safety net to subsidize underemployment or to serve as a bridge between jobs.
We have streamlined our service delivery. We have used the current flexibility. We sometimes think that too much flexibility can be counterproductive. And the safety net, in our experience, does work. We hope that our experience can help other States.
Thank you for allowing me to speak.
Chairman Reichert. Thank you.
[The statement of Ms. Saddler follows:]
Chairman Reichert. Mr. Woods is recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF LARRY C. WOODS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, HOUSING AUTHORITY OF WINSTON‑SALEM
Mr. Woods. Chairman Reichert, Ranking Member Doggett, and members of the subcommittee, good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am Larry C. Woods, chief executive officer for the Housing Authority, City of Winston‑Salem in North Carolina. I have over 27 years of experience in the field of community and economic development.
The authority I represent has approximately 1,300 public housing units. We administer 4,600 housing choice vouchers. And we manage market‑rate housing units. In 2010, we opened up our housing choice voucher waiting list for 5 days and received over 6,000 applications. It will take approximately 10 years to realize enough voucher turnover to address these applications. Our public housing waiting lists are currently at 130 percent of our total unit count.
There is economic stagnation of the non‑elderly, non‑disabled families living in subsidized housing, resulting in unnecessary lengthy stays, generation of poverty, increased demands for governmental subsidies, and lengthening waiting lists.
Current policies, rules, and regulations provide unconditional, open‑ended housing subsidies that discourage self‑sufficiency, perpetuate dependency, and nurture a generation of poverty. When we ask our non‑elderly and non‑disabled families how long do they plan to live in subsidized housing, the answer is clear: forever. They have reached their goal of independence, and they have no intentions of furthering their education or finding employment.
To address this problem, we developed the PATH program, which is a hands‑up approach to moving families up the economic ladder and into the regular housing market by using a unique permanent exit strategy unique for each family. The program will reduce dependency on government support, break generational poverty, and provide a transition into mainstream housing.
In 2012, when we introduced the PATH program at 4 of our developments, only 60 residents attended; only 15 chose to participate. The reason given for the lack of interest in the program was clear. They stated, participation was not a requirement for continuing to receiving housing assistance.
Currently, work and participation in such programs cannot be mandatory. They need to be mandatory. Self‑sufficiency cannot be achieved without the means of earning an income.
Many government agencies have self‑sufficiency programs. Each program is stand‑alone. Each is without a comprehensive assessment of need or a comprehensive plan to create long‑term success. We measure long‑term success when a family becomes independent of all types of government assistance. Success of an agency should be measured by the number of people or number of families who experience a positive exit and no longer need any assistance, not by the number of recipients receiving benefits.
Subsidized housing is one tool in the toolbox to assist in reaching self‑sufficiency. If all agencies together focused on the needs of the family, the family could move permanently into the mainstream. This would eliminate the continually increasing demand for subsidies, and a greater number of families would be assisted.
All the welfare agencies, including housing authorities, need to work together to design and implement strategies to best serve the needs and ensure the long‑term success within our jurisdiction. Such a collaborative effort to address family situations holistically would result in long‑term success by combining housing, employment services, and other welfare benefits in a unique plan for the family.
I have asked for several years now to be designated a Moving to Work agency. Without MTW, we cannot be innovative, we cannot collaborate with other welfare agencies, we cannot compel recipients to participate, nor reward work with the current silos of programs, rules, and regulations. Given the current pressures on the Federal budget, it is now more important than ever to empower local agencies to do all they can with their available resources.
Chairman Reichert and members of the committee, I ask you for local control to tailor solutions across all housing and welfare programs and to allow for a holistic and innovative approaches to ensure that families can reach the point where they will never again need public assistance.
This concludes my testimony. Thank you for the opportunity, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have.
Chairman Reichert. Thank you, Mr. Woods.
[The statement of Mr. Woods follows:]
Chairman Reichert. And thank you all for your testimony. And now we will move into the question‑and‑answer phase of our hearing.
Mr. Carter, in your testimony, you highlighted a number of problems that you believe keep our current Federal programs from working as a true safety net should. You discussed some of the flaws in the way that programs are designed, like how they don’t have a common, shared vision and how they operate in isolation from one another.
That brought back a flashback for me. Back in my sheriff’s days, I was on the King County in Seattle, the King County Task Force to End Homelessness. And in 10 years, that was the goal. So we had a shared vision. But as we brought all these people together who were working on homelessness in Seattle and in King County, we discovered that they all had their separate silos, they all had their separate visions, they all had their separate sources of financing to help them get to their individual. It was frustrating, to say the least, in trying to bring all these organizations ‑‑ they all want to do the good thing, getting people off the street and into homes. But it just wasn’t clicking. We were on different pages sometimes. And so I clearly saw this picture in my mind as you described the situation. No shared vision leads to no results.
And I really like what Mr. Woods said.
Your measurement of success is: Everyone is off assistance.
Mr. Woods. That is correct.
Chairman Reichert. It reminds me of working on domestic violence for years as the sheriff and also here as a Member of Congress. The vision wasn’t just to reduce domestic violence; it was and it still is to end domestic violence. Not just reduce the number, but you have to have that goal ‑‑ and envision and measure your progress to that point. And I really appreciate your comments.
I would like to ask a rhetorical question, Mr. Carter, that you raised in your testimony today and turn it into a real question, if I may. What are we trying to accomplish with these programs?
Mr. Carter. Mr. Chairman, my argument is that, currently, what we are trying to accomplish with these programs is what each of the programs are trying to accomplish singularly. We are not trying to accomplish the broader objective of growing that individual or family beyond their need for the public intervention. And it is my argument that that has to be the basis of our intention, and then our design and operation has got to follow that intention.
Chairman Reichert. I would like to ask each of you what our objective should be with these programs, so just get a perspective from where you are all coming from.
Ms. Anderson, what should our objective be with these programs?
Ms. Anderson. Well, because families are really important to me, I think our objective is to get people integrated into the community and have stable, working families.
And when I say get people integrated in the community, I don’t know any better way for people to become a part of the larger community and the society than through work. And once you are not working, you are isolated, you are segregated, you are moved off to the side. And work changes all that. And for families, I don’t know anything better for children than seeing a parent get up in the morning and going to work.
And, usually, and I try to tell people this all the time, is that we need fathers in families. And so family stability and cohesion means bringing dads back to the family.
And the programs that I have seen over the past 50 years remove all that. They remove family stability away. They don’t allow people to integrate into the community. And they get rid of people’s gifts and talents. Everybody comes with a gift and a talent, and they get rid of those, because they can’t use them.
So those are all the things that I would like.
Chairman Reichert. So I hear from the two witnesses, Ms. Anderson, Mr. Carter, that the object is not to make the life of low‑income families slightly better, but it is to help families find their way off of these benefits so they can have some pride and use their talents.
And, Ms. Saddler, what is your view on what the objectives should be?
Ms. Saddler. Thank you, Chairman.
In Illinois, we believe that success is independence, yes, from public benefits. We believe that we want to work with our families to lead them or to help them gain independence and self‑sufficiency. So we are a State that very much believes in work.
But we also believe that a drop, a reduction in caseload of our welfare benefits, if you will, a reduction in caseload doesn’t necessarily mean that the people have found work. So that is something we have to be very careful about.
We in Illinois had experience at the beginning of the recession in 2007 where our TANF caseloads dropped for 2 years after the recession began. And there isn’t that much of a lag in TANF, so we should have seen an increase. People were being pushed off the rolls for various reasons, but they weren’t getting jobs.
So the vision is very important, and the vision is self‑sufficiency and independence.
Chairman Reichert. Thank you.
And, Mr. Woods, I got your answer in your testimony, so I appreciate that.
And my time has expired. And I am going to ask Mr. Doggett to ask questions. And he has a statement, too, he would like to offer for the record.
Mr. Doggett. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Our State delegation meeting ran over a little. I am sorry. And, to our witnesses, I at least did get to hear each of you.
And, really, I would pick up right where, Ms. Saddler, your last answer began. Because I think we do all share the objective that what we want is to see more people who have been dependent upon government assistance have an opportunity to achieve their full potential and contribute as much as they can to our society and to our economy with good, living‑wage jobs and be the best parents that they can possibly be.
But when you start looking at how you measure success, to measure success only by whether the public caseload has gone down, rather than looking to see how many people who have relied on TANF, actually have a good‑paying job that they have been able to stay in and provide for their family, TANF doesn’t measure up nearly as well versus just looking solely at caseload.
And I believe that, in this subcommittee particularly, our first focus should be on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, because that is the program that is under this subcommittee’s jurisdiction and also because we all know that, once again, with the stop‑start that has applied to TANF, it will expire at the end of September, only a few legislative days from now.
And I believe that our focus needs to be more on analyzing the policies that might help us ‑‑ great if we reduce the caseload, but, more importantly, will help us to assure more people who have turned to TANF, that they actually have found, retained, and advanced within the economy in good jobs.
During our last hearing, we heard about the success of some local programs, such as Project QUEST and Capital IDEA in Texas, that are specific to providing training for occupations and jobs that are needed, such as in the healthcare field.
We also heard testimony about evidence‑based programs and how important it is to evaluate programs. Several of the witnesses discussed the Nurse‑Family Partnership Program as an example of how we were not only helping people get a good job but we were also helping them to be the kind of parents that they want to be.
I am sure there are a variety of other potential reforms to the TANF program that we can make to help it be more meaningful to achieving economic success for our poorer neighbors. And I think that is what we need to do, and do it immediately since this program is about to expire.
Mr. Chairman, while I couldn’t agree more that we need to look for every opportunity to get efficiency and effectiveness and avoid overlaps in these programs, I do think we need to understand that many of these programs are already working and working well to help people achieve success and care for their children.
I don’t think you have to look any further than the first of the hearings in this series, where you called Sada Randolph to testify. And we were all impressed with her and the fact that she has been able to move from TANF to work. But in her testimony, in response to questions, I think, from Mr. Crowley, she emphasized how vital it was to her to have the Earned Income Tax Credit, to have childcare assistance, to have Medicaid, that this wasn’t just a matter of moving from TANF to work without the support of those initiatives.
I would just ask our witnesses if the Earned Income Tax Credit is important to the folks that you work with and if you believe that we ought to continue to support it as what President Reagan said was, I believe, the most effective way to get people out of poverty.
How about you, Mr. Woods?
Mr. Woods. The families that we worked with in public housing, the Earned Income Tax Credit is a very valuable program.
I would like to go back to the original question, though. Currently, from our vantage point, the programs as they are set up right now are basically gap‑fillers. Families are at this level; we would like to have them at this level. And the Federal Government, through its programs, are trying to fill that gap, which I think is admirable.
But what we think needs to be done is that there should be a goal of self‑reliance that leads to a positive exit. And ‑‑
Mr. Doggett. And you feel like the Earned Income Tax Credit contributes to that?
Mr. Woods. It does contribute to that, yes, it does.
Mr. Doggett. Because my time is a little short, Mr. Carter, you are in support of the Earned Income Tax Credit, too?
Mr. Carter. Representative Doggett, absolutely in support of it as part of an ‑‑
Mr. Doggett. An overall program.
Mr. Carter. ‑‑ overall safety net.
Mr. Doggett. Right.
Mr. Carter. I would have to say, I take exception with your assertion that I was focused on reduction of the caseload. My objective ‑‑
Mr. Doggett. I was really responding to Ms. Saddler’s comment, not to yours.
Mr. Carter. It is simply not a reduction in the caseload. It is growing the capacity of safety‑net users ‑‑
Mr. Doggett. Right.
Mr. Carter. ‑‑ so they grow beyond the need for the safety net.
Mr. Doggett. Indeed. We agree on that.
Mr. Carter. That is very different than just throwing people off.
Mr. Doggett. It is just a question of how you measure whether we have been successful ‑‑
Mr. Carter. Right.
Mr. Doggett. ‑‑ that caseload is only one of the various parameters to consider there.
And, Ms. Anderson, do you support the Earned Income Tax Credit?
Ms. Anderson. We use the Earned Income Tax Credit in Wisconsin as a bridge from non‑work to work. We use it as a bridge from low‑income work to higher‑income work.
So it depends on how you use it. If it is used the way we use it and some of my partner States, I am supportive of it. But if it is just an income‑transfer program without anything attached to it, then I think we need to really pay attention to that.
Mr. Doggett. You want to attach it to work.
And, Ms. Saddler, has the home visiting ‑‑ I mentioned the Nurse‑Family Partnership ‑‑ home visiting programs, have those been important in Illinois?
Ms. Saddler. Yes. You are referring to what we call the Maternal, Infant ‑‑ we call it the Maternal, Infant ‑‑
Mr. Doggett. Yes.
Ms. Saddler. ‑‑ and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. We have $16 million in Illinois for this program, and it is operated through the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood. This has been a very important program. We view it as helping assure the nurturing and assuring that babies and young children receive the nurturing and care that they need to thrive.
It is a pilot program. We are nearing the end of that pilot program. We are having the University of Illinois conduct some studies of the effectiveness. But we feel, upon initial review, that is a very effective program. And we would really love it if funding could continue to be available so that we could pilot this in other communities, as well.
Mr. Doggett. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As you know, it expires in about a year. There will be no more funding for that program. And I think it is very important that we find a way to renew it.
And I thank each of the witnesses and would welcome their supplementing with any written comments you have about the family visiting, the Nurse‑Family Partnership‑type programs, the MIECHV.
Mr. Doggett. Thank you.
Chairman Reichert. Thank you, Mr. Doggett.
Mr. Young is recognized.
Mr. Young. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I thank all of you for being here today to help us work with State authorities to try and improve, rework, and rethink this constellation of programs that are designed to assist the neediest members among us.
And I am particularly interested, Mr. Carter, in your thoughts about how these programs are siloed, how they have oftentimes diverged, certainly very different visions program by program, different funding streams. And even the data that we collect for each program can create problems for policymakers and others.
Currently, data reporting is based on the program receipt, the recipient and that person on a per-program basis, and there is no cross‑program reporting of data for individuals with regard to work and self‑sufficiency. Individuals have their self‑sufficiency activities reported within each program, so it becomes a very opaque sort of system from someone here at our level and at your level, I suspect, as you try and bring someone to that level of self‑sufficiency, which is your stated objective.
So that leads me to a couple of different questions. And I will direct this to Mr. Carter, but with the remaining time, others, feel free to pipe up, please.
Should Congress consider creating cross‑activity reporting of some manner, whether requirements or perhaps you have another thought about how we could work with State authorities on that cross‑program reporting? Or, instead, should we modify existing reporting requirements within each of these different programs? Or, is there another third approach that I haven’t considered?
Mr. Carter. Representative Young, I think our demonstration that we are working on in Arizona actually proposes a hybrid of what you just laid out.
Mr. Young. Okay.
Mr. Carter. What we are attempting to do is to, as an individual comes into our system, do a full‑battery assessment and create a benchmark of a number of conditions. And what we ought to measure is growing those indicators.
And so any intervention from Congress which would say what we are looking for from States is reporting how you are growing the capacity of individuals and families who use the safety net, that completely changes the game. Not whether or not you delivered a unit of service, but did a family or an individual get better; can you demonstrate that they got better for the receipt of that?
And for us, asking us to be able to show how we have increased the functioning of an individual across programs, that would be a huge game‑changer.
Mr. Young. So you think that perhaps ‑‑ I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but perhaps that is something at the Federal level that ought to be coordinated, knowing it might require investments in new information technology and other things so that you have standard data reporting. But there could be real dividends, social dividends as well as economic dividends, from that investment.
Mr. Carter. There would be massive social and economic dividends for our society based on that construct. That is exactly what we are trying to demonstrate.
Mr. Young. All right.
In terms of measuring the functional enhancement of the recipient of government benefits and their movement toward self‑sufficiency ‑‑ stated differently, their reduction in dependency ‑‑ could you elaborate a bit on some of the specific metrics we ought to be looking at beyond just reduced caseload?
Mr. Carter. So, of course, you want to look at individual earnings. You want to look at education level. You want to look at literacy. Okay? You want to look at the financial infrastructure of an individual served and can we enhance that financial infrastructure.
So those are some of the metrics. We are currently working on developing another set of metrics that allow us to show that if you move the lever on these metrics, you will have enhanced the functioning of an individual. But ‑‑
Mr. Young. That was very helpful.
Mr. Carter. Yes.
Mr. Young. I am running out of time, and I just want to invite the other members of the panel to submit, in writing, if you have responses to that series of questions.
Mr. Young. Thank you very much. I yield back.
Chairman Reichert. Thank you.
Mr. Renacci is recognized.
Mr. Renacci. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank the witnesses for testifying today.
You know, one of the things I have heard today, a lot of talk about work, work incentives, helping individuals achieve success through work opportunities. I think those are all great things that we need to move toward.
Last Congress, I introduced the EMPLOY Act, a bill that would actually help participating employers receive a portion of unemployment benefits if they hire an unemployed individual and train them. I thought that was a good idea because it was picked up in the 2012 UI reforms, where we had in the Middle‑Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act. That act actually allowed States to apply for waivers in order to use unemployment funds to pay for reemployment programs.
In April 2012, the DOL issued 24 pages of burdensome application requirements. To the best of my knowledge, Texas was the only State to apply for a waiver, and they were swiftly denied. Most States I have spoken to believe the application is too erroneous and too expensive. Really, the purpose of a waiver is to give States flexibility and not drive up administrative costs.
So, Mr. Carter and Ms. Anderson, the question I would direct to you: How have waivers really played a role in allowing States the flexibility to administer the safety‑net programs?
Ms. Anderson. I don’t know if you were around then, but the reason why we have TANF is because we have waivers. And the State that I am in, Wisconsin, we went after a waiver. And there were a lot of other States that went after a waiver. And we tried things, and we didn’t get our hands smacked for trying things. Some of us were successful, and some of us weren’t. And what we learned from that, you guys then created TANF.
So it depends on how the relationship is. If we have federalism, where ‑‑ I am a county‑run State, so our State behaves like you do. The counties run our programs; we run yours. I try very hard to give my counties flexibility, but I can only give my counties as much flexibility as you give me, and that is not very much.
So what I would like to see, actually, in terms of how we do things ‑‑ I am a block‑grant fan, so I am probably unique. I like block grants. If you are going to own a program, at least give it to me in a block grant and let me know where my box is and give me a lot of room in there to make the program work.
Mr. Renacci. Give you the opportunity.
Ms. Anderson. Right. I believe that that is what we ought to do, because every State is not alike. We come from different backgrounds, different cultures. I mean, we try to pretend like we are Europe, but if we wanted to pretend like we are Europe, we have to say England and Spain and Greece don’t act anything alike. And I think we could do the same thing here.
So if you give us flexibility, we can come up with things. If you give us a waiver, don’t give us a waiver where we have to jump thousands of hoops to get it. Give us the waiver ‑‑
Mr. Renacci. Right.
Ms. Anderson. ‑‑ and then let us play around and figure out how to make it work. We will all do ‑‑ we are neighbors; we don’t run anything the same way.
Mr. Renacci. Mr. Carter, do you have anything to add?
Mr. Carter. All I will say is, “Yes, what she said.”
Mr. Renacci. You know, it was mentioned in Mrs. Anderson’s testimony, our current welfare spending totals four times more than what would be needed in order to bring all of the poor above the poverty line if taxpayers were simply to give them a cash payment. This is truly disappointing.
Over the last few weeks, we have heard testimony on how fragmented the welfare system is and how many ineffective and duplicate programs are left in place.
What we really have is a broken system. I plead to my colleagues across the aisle to recognize this and work with the members of this subcommittee to really bring about true reform to these safety‑net programs.
The question really, though, is for the entire panel. I would like to ask each of you, and this is somewhat a follow‑up on Mr. Young’s question, but with respect to your States, how are you measuring success?
Ms. Saddler. We are measuring success according to the number of people who become independent. We are also measuring success in the numbers of people who gain employment given very different backgrounds.
Work is something that we really have to invest in. Many people ‑‑ there are people, as my colleague here says, that don’t want to work, but we are not there yet. We have so many people who want to work, and we need to provide them with the supports needed to bring them to that level. Some people have trauma in their backgrounds. They need counseling in mental health or domestic violence issues. Others need other kinds of support, but we have to provide them with that support. And there are many, many people who want to work.
Mr. Woods. I would like to say that, in our PATH program, which we developed but we haven’t been able to fully implement because of the current rules and regulation, some of the matrices that Mr. Carter talked about ‑‑ earnings increasing, educational‑attainment levels increasing, whether someone moves from a part‑time to a full‑time job, employment retention, are they retaining their jobs so that they can have a work history ‑‑ these are some of the measurements that we would like to measure that we think would measure success.
Mr. Renacci. Thank you.
I yield back.
Chairman Reichert. Thank you.
Mr. Davis, you are recognized.
Mr. Davis. Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for calling this very important hearing.
And I also want to thank our witnesses for being here.
It seems to me that economic self‑sufficiency is the most desired outcome of safety‑net programs and programming. I would like to ask each one of you two questions, really, based in one.
I was struck by something that Mr. Carter said about draining the swamp. And I guess I am trying to figure out and find out: What areas, or are there areas, that in your work over the extensive periods of time have been most effective in moving us in that direction? And the other part of that is, are there other things that perhaps we could do that would help us to get that swamp dry?
Ms. Saddler. If I may, Congressman, in part, still a second part of my answer to Mr. Renacci, he asked about measurement, and one of the things that has been very successful as a work support is child care. In Illinois, when we began making initial investments in child care, 86 percent of our childcare recipients, if you will, 86 also had TANF as a source of income. And now, because of the success of that as a work support, only 8 percent of our childcare assistance program people have TANF as a source of income. So child care has been a very, very effective work support in helping people move to self‑sufficiency.
Other incentives that are already in place because of the flexibility we have within TANF include things like our Work Pays disregard. So, in Illinois, if you are on TANF rolls, for every $4 that you earn, we only counted $1 of that so that you feel the benefits of working. Same with the Earned Income Tax Credit, and same with various waivers that we use to stop the clock when people are working 30 hours or more. So if someone the really investing themselves in work, we stop that 60‑month clock.
So those are among some of the things that are working very well. And there are other things we can do to improve ‑‑
Mr. Davis. Let me just follow up a little bit.
Ms. Saddler. Sure.
Mr. Davis. Are you saying that a focus on child care, early childhood education, not only benefits the current TANF recipient but also, in all likelihood, will prevent members of the family from becoming TANF recipients or safety‑net recipients later on?
Ms. Saddler. I am saying that child care has been a very effective work support, and it has helped a lot of our families move to self‑sufficiency and advance their careers.
I am also saying that it is a very valuable resource for our children. In fact, there are some in our State that would link TANF to placing the recipient’s children in high‑quality early childhood education opportunities. It is that valuable.
Mr. Davis. Thank you.
Any other witnesses?
Mr. Carter. Yes, sir. Congressman, I wouldn’t choose to go down the road of individual programs, because there are scores and scores of safety‑net programs that, in and of themselves, could be effective if they were part of a whole intention and a whole design. Singularly, they don’t achieve that objective. Yes, child care is an important intervention, but it has to be important to an end. And the end has to be measurably growing the capacity of the individual.
So, many of our programs do support ‑‑ many of our programs are fine in their own individual intent, but there is no collective intent beyond the individual intent of the program. That is our argument.
Mr. Davis. Ms. Anderson? Mr. Woods?
Ms. Anderson. Well, you asked the question of what I have seen that works. And then there is a larger question about the system.
What I have seen that works is when we bring fathers back into the picture and have fathers have the capability, which means the work programs supporting them the way we support mothers. The family moves out of poverty because the father is able to pay child support if they are not married, and child support actually works better than welfare.
But to the larger question, is that I think we need to think about the system, the way we used to call it the military industrial complex, I think we need to start calling this the welfare industrial complex. And there are two sides to this. The people providing the service have to have incentives to get people off. When I first started doing this reform, I had to say, you know what, your job ought to be out of a job. That is not how people think about this.
So we have a lot of incentives in the system for this not to work because it threatens people who provide services’ ability, as well. You have to think about what we have actually put together here, and I don’t think what we have put together here actually works for the benefit of the people we really want to get out of these programs.
Mr. Davis. My time has expired, so thank you all very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reichert. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Davis.
Mr. Reed is recognized.
Mr. Reed. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you to our witnesses today.
I am going to direct my questions to Ms. Anderson and Mr. Carter, but feel free, the rest of the panel, to weigh in.
I read with interest some of the testimony going back historically at some of the things the committee has done in this area and, in particular, prior to my time being here ‑‑ I came in November 2010, so I am relatively new ‑‑ the concept of super‑waivers, the concept of cross‑program waivers.
If you could educate me in particular, what kind of flexibility, what kind of ability would that give you at the State level to implement if we go down the path again of super‑waivers and legislatively authorizing that relief? I am really interested in knowing examples of what we would be doing in the various programs that may be most beneficial to the recipients of the benefits.
And then as a second follow‑up question, not having been here, when this was done, I believe it was 2002 to 2005, I am trying to understand and anticipate what opposition we would get to that legislative proposal and get that into the record.
So, Ms. Anderson, maybe we will start with you.
Ms. Anderson. The super‑waiver, what would it do? It would allow us to actually get rid of the silos, because then we could service our programs as one simple program to a family. Right now, I have housing over here, I have food stamps over here, I have TANF over here, I have other things over there. They are all scattered. And in some States, not only are they scattered, you have to go to different places to get to them. So it would allow us to bring them all together under one roof.
It would also allow us to align their objectives and goals together, which is probably the most important part.
It would also require something that really scares me a little bit, is that we probably need new data systems. And anytime we put up new data systems, I get very, very concerned. But the information, I think, would be much easier for us if we had one data systems for all of these programs.
So, for me, it would be a joy, I think, in these programs if I didn’t have to think about how this goes with this one and it goes with this one and it goes with this one. I could just put them all together and then operate them.
And I think families would be happier because they wouldn’t have to go here, here, here, here. I mean, think about it. I am a low‑income worker, which means I work by the hour. I have to take off from work to go meet with this caseworker, this caseworker, this caseworker, and this caseworker. That all would be solved.
Mr. Reed. I am trying to understand, why historically did the system develop that way? I mean, it seems to make sense to do what we are proposing there. But I am new to D.C., so I know there is a lack of common sense here, so I am just trying to figure out what this means.
Mr. Carter. If I could, Mr. Reed, it grew this way because there was no design intention. And so it grew by program, not by an overarching concept. And that, for us, is the centerpiece of the challenge of the system. There has to be an end in mind, and then everything needs to support the end. That is not the way the safety net was designed. It was designed by individual programs, each having its own objective.
As part of our demonstration in Arizona, we have put together a Federal policy team. It is a group of senior policy officials in Federal agencies that administer safety‑net programs, for the purpose of them helping us with waivers and workarounds of particular programs that will allow us to demonstrate our intention to grow the capacity and reduce dependency.
So what we would do with a super‑waiver in Arizona is we would demonstrate that, if it is our intention to grow the capacity of the safety‑net user, whereby that would reduce their dependency, then we would be able to show how bringing all of the programs together with that intention would allow us to achieve that. That is what we would do with the super‑waiver in Arizona.
Ms. Saddler. Congressman, may I ‑‑
Mr. Reed. Ms. Saddler, please, go right ahead.
Ms. Saddler. Thank you so much.
Mr. Reed. But I have limited time because I do want to get to the ‑‑
Mr. Reed. ‑‑ anticipated opposition.
Ms. Saddler. We agree with the vision. We agree that we need vision. And, in Illinois, we have the collaborative, uniform, streamlined vision. But, in our experience, the block‑grant structure has caused us to make false choices, because there are times where we need to support both our working families and the families that need cash assistance. So it creates a false choice.
And we feel that flexibility without a flexibility in the funding source not only creates false choices but it is like rearranging decks on the decks ‑‑ just rearranging decks. So the TANF Contingency Fund is one of the things that we could talk about that is a flexible funding source and could be redesigned to help out in this whole picture.
Mr. Reed. Well, I appreciate it. And I look forward to maybe some input on the anticipated opposition.
And, Mr. Chairman, before I yield back, I am very interested in this super‑waiver area. And I would offer, anything we can do to take a leadership role in that, I would be very interested in doing that.
So thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I yield back ‑‑ and to our witnesses.
Chairman Reichert. Thank you, Mr. Reed.
Mr. Griffin is recognized.
Mr. Griffin. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you all for being here today. This is actually extremely helpful.
I would like to talk ‑‑ I am from Arkansas, represent central Arkansas. You can tell from my accent. But one of the things that we did years ago in Arkansas was take the idea of an unemployment office, change the name, the branding, make it about workforce services, right, and then put more benefits, more training, more capacity under one roof, right. And so now, under the one roof, you have workforce training, you have some veteran services, you have TANF, some other things. And so we have started in some States to put more under one roof, so when a person comes in there, they don’t get as much of the silo effect. They get a little more comprehensive approach. There is a lot that is not under the roof, right?
So my question is ‑‑ and it is for anybody and everybody ‑‑ how much of the effect that we want to get, how much of the vision that you want to implement is tied to logistics? Because we are human beings, a lot of what we do relates to where we are in physical proximity to services.
So how much is the problem of just getting these people or this one person who knows about all of the different programs under one roof, so when the person who needs assistance or guidance or whatever comes in, they can get that information without having to go to 10 other places? How much is it ‑‑ there is the data issue, but how much is it a function of logistics?
Any of you. I see Mr. Carter is anxious to ‑‑
Mr. Carter. If I could, Congressman Griffin, logistics is an issue, but it is an issue, again, because of our antiquated thinking for how we deliver these benefits, goods, and services.
In the 21st century, there is no reason that you should have to physically go to a building in order to receive the benefits, goods, and services of the safety net. I don’t have to go to a bank to get my money.
Mr. Griffin. Right.
Mr. Carter. Okay? Why is it that we require that the individuals that we serve come and sit in our offices for hours? We have to think about these things very differently.
In Arizona, we are looking at the construct of telemedicine, because it allows doctors to actually diagnose without being in the same room. And so that is one of the concepts that we are trying to think about to figure out how we can reduce the issue of place as a part of the safety net. We think that we can deliver these benefits, goods, and services in a much more effective way if we rethink the issue of place.
Mr. Griffin. Interesting.
Mr. Woods. I would like to reiterate Mr. Carter’s comment. I don’t think logistics is the issue. I think Mr. Carter’s overall comment, it has to have a uniform focus, a uniform goal amongst all programs. If you have a uniform focus, a uniform goal, I think that is how you build both the capacity and reduce dependency.
There are many ways in which we can input people into the system, so I don’t think logistics is really that much of a problem. But I do think he is correct that programs must work together and have a uniform focus, a uniform goal, uniform criteria.
Mr. Griffin. I am getting short on time, but let me just say this. That is all great to hear. And I think that the fact that you are able to deal with what some see as a problem, logistics, through innovation is more reason, in my view, to push the power to you guys.
And so I am also very interested in the super‑waiver issue. And what I want to come up with is a short list of what we can do up here to empower you and get out of your way, where appropriate. Because I hear that a lot. Often, the Federal Government, well‑intentioned ‑‑ no one is questioning the intentions of the Federal Government. We are questioning our ability to accomplish the mission that we set out to accomplish. That is where the problem is.
So I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for having this, and I hope we do a lot of follow‑up on this. This is fertile ground for improvement.
And I appreciate you all being here. Thank you all.
Chairman Reichert. Mr. Kelly?
Mr. Kelly. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you all for being here.
One of the things that I see, a common theme ‑‑ and I think we are all thinking the same way on this. Because what I have seen is that the programs are taking the responsibility of raising a family away from the nuclear family and saying, no, no, the government can do it for you. And, honestly, I don’t know a man or woman worth their salt who doesn’t wake up every morning with one concern and one concern only, and that is their family. They can’t wait to throw their feet out over the bed and go do something to make their family stronger, to make it better.
And, listen, I have worked with some people back in western Pennsylvania ‑‑ Mr. O’Malley in Butler with the Redevelopment Authority and Housing Authority, Ronnie Errett up in Sharon, Pennsylvania. I watch how we work with public agencies, and I have watched how important the money is. But I would much rather backpack the money and give it to you, if it is going to come from the Feds, and say, do what is right for your area.
I mean, honestly, I have never seen an area ‑‑ and I hate to be this critical, but you have a group here that is $17 trillion in debt telling you how to run things. I mean, it doesn’t make sense. I would rather see you ‑‑ you know what it is like. I have operated a private business all my life.
But I think what we have gotten away from is the central family, the nuclear family. Because I think what makes us great as a Nation is our family structure. I mean, that is where it comes from.
But, Ms. Anderson and Mr. Woods, I listened, I have watched you all, and you are all nodding your head as we talk about the ability you have to put all of this together and get the best results out of it. You don’t need Washington, D.C., to tell you how to do it. You know how to do it.
What can we do, if there is anything we can do better to allow you to do your job? And any of you can jump in, because you all have the right answer, I think.
Ms. Anderson. Well, I like that super‑waiver. As much as you can give the States room and flexibility, the more I think that we step up. I think the States behave just like humans do. The more you expect out of us, the more we give.
And I also like the States doing it because we are not all the same. There are 12 of us who are county‑run systems, and the rest of them are State‑run systems. The county‑run systems and the State‑run systems are very different from each other. And so, when you send your stuff down to us, you don’t think about those differences.
So if you give it to us, we will think about the differences, we will put things in place. And you have to remember, these are our people, too.
Mr. Kelly. I am with you. There is no one‑size‑fits‑all.
Ms. Anderson. Right.
Mr. Carter. Congressman Kelly, if it would be the intention of the Federal Government to enhance the functioning of individuals that were served by the safety net and you would give us that broad parameter and get out of our way, I think that you would see amazing things happen at the State and local level.
All of the innovation that ultimately wound up in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, it came from the States. The States figured it out. We are absolutely the laboratories here.
And so I think, if there was a broad intention that we have to grow capacity, not simply reduce caseload but grow capacity, and demonstrate that, and then free us up financially to be able to achieve that objective, I believe that we would have amazing results.
Ms. Saddler. Congressman Kelly, I will be very fast.
We have, in Illinois, implemented many changes, many designs to the programs that make use of the current flexibility. There are other things that we could still do or that we would like to do. So there is room for improvement.
But, as the secretary said, not all States are the same, and we bring a slightly different perspective from Illinois that may be experienced by others, but because of our needs and our population, there are times when flexibility should not necessarily equate to the block‑grant structure. Because there are times when we need more flexibility, and the block grant within itself causes us to make choices between working families and our families that are not yet working.
Mr. Woods. We believe in the idea of a super‑waiver and cross‑program participation. I support the testifiers here today concerning growing capacity, which will wind up reducing dependency.
We think, exactly as Mr. Carter has been emphasizing over and over again, there needs to be a uniform focus amongst all programs, with one uniform goal and objective, and that is to help families reduce their dependency on all Federal, State, and local support. At that point, you will have families moving back into the mainstream, you will have jobs being created. You will also have now taxpayers paying taxes, rather than receiving tax assistance.
Mr. Kelly. Amen.
Listen, I want to thank you all. I am serious about this. Because we are all thinking the same way. I know what made us great as a Nation. It is families, being strong, being together. I never want to get to the point where I have to rely on the government taking care of my wife or my kids. I just don’t want to be in that position because governments are too fragile. Families are not. They recover from bad things. They work together to get there.
So anything we can could to help you. And thank you so much for being here. Stay the course. You are doing wonderful, wonderful work. And help us to get through times that sometimes are a little bit confusing. But if we can build this economy, if we can give people a pathway that they can take care of themselves, my goodness, what a bright day it will be in America. Thank you so much.
And thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reichert. Thank you, Mr. Kelly.
Well, as you can tell from the questions and the speeches that we all give, we are very impressed with your work and we do want to make a difference. We want to help you help others. And sometimes there is a little disagreement on the panel here as to how best to accomplish that, but you know that all of our hearts are with you. And we will figure it out. And, hopefully, we figure it out by listening to you and getting the great ideas and thoughts and your personal experience from your own communities that you are going through right now.
Our goal is, of course, to move people out of poverty. We want to move them up the economic ladder. And as Mr. Doggett has mentioned, we have had a number of witnesses testify who have been through the system, and their testimony has been powerful. Yours is good, but, boy, when you hear from somebody who has been through the system and they describe the ins and the outs and the low points and the high points and what needs to be fixed, it is powerful.
And when Sada came in and testified ‑‑ when she first entered the system, she really didn’t feel like she was getting any help. She felt like she was getting a paycheck, as I mentioned in my opening statement. But she said something at the end of the testimony, and I think that both sides recognized it and appreciated it as a comment of excitement, success, and recognition of taking responsibility. A mother of two, she was so proud of the fact that she had gotten a job, bought her first car. And then she said, you know, I am looking forward to buying my first house.
That is where we need to go with this. And I know that all of you recognize that. We want to help you get people to that point, too. Thank you so much for what you do every day, each and every day.
And I have to make one last statement before we go.
If Members have additional questions for the witnesses, they will submit them in writing to you, and we would appreciate receiving your responses for the record within 2 weeks.
Chairman Reichert. With that, the committee stands adjourned. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 3:24 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]