Rep. Paul Ryan is proposing sweeping changes to anti-poverty safety net programs that would allow states more flexibility on how they spend such targeted money and to innovate new reforms as they see fit.
The Wisconsin Republican, speaking at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, proposed consolidation of funding for up to 11 federal programs, calling for a new Opportunity Grant that allows states to assign money to programs where they see the most needs, The Washington Free Beacon
reported. Such programs cost taxpayers about $100 billion annually.
Ryan's speech coincided with the release of a report from the House Republican Budget Committee, called "Expanding Opportunity in America." Ryan, a budget expert, serves as the committee's chairman.
Under his proposal, programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Section 8 (for housing) would be consolidated into one. Such a consolidation would eliminate time-consuming and confusing enrollment in a multitude of programs for those in need, he noted, adding that reforms were severely overdue.
"The point is, don't just pass a law and hope for the best," Ryan said of offering greater freedom for states that might have differing needs or want to try something different. "If you've got an idea, let's try it."
He added of a need for a change: "Stop the programs that don't work and support the programs that do."
More accountability from participants is also expected under Ryan's plan, The Wall Street Journal
noted. Programs including food stamps, housing assistance, aid for child care and cash welfare would have their funding streams pooled.
Ryan explained the value of his plan in an opinion piece published Thursday in USA Today.
"The idea would be to let states try different ways of providing aid and then to test the results — in short, more flexibility in exchange for more accountability," Ryan wrote. "In short, we would re-conceive the federal government's role in the fight against poverty. Instead of trying to supplant local communities, the federal government would support them. Communities have to lead this effort, and Washington should follow."
Democrats, the Journal noted, applauded reform but pushed back on plans that would take funding away from those who need it.
"Democrats welcome any ideas that lift more Americans out of poverty and create pathways into the middle class," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. "But we will oppose any plan that uses the sunny language of 'reform' as a guise to cut vital safety net programs."
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