On Thursday, the American Enterprise Institute hosted an event during which House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled his plan to combat poverty and reform federal assistance programs. The Congressman stressed that while the government spends $800 billion annually on these programs, the United States poverty rate “is the highest in a generation.”
A prominent part of Chairman Ryan’s plan is the Opportunity Grant, a program that would consolidate 11 federal programs to provide one stream of funding for participating states. The idea is to give states greater flexibility in determining how to distribute aid. Ryan pointed out that state and local communities are the ones who are “on the ground” in the fight against poverty. By giving states easier access to funding, state governments can involve non-profits and local charities in creating a system of personalized aid for individuals in need.
Chairman Ryan clarified that the only way that the program would work is if there is a level of accountability. Every service provider would be monitored by an independent third party that would determine the success rate of the individualized aid. This would create a program where success would be based off of results, rather than by the amount of federal funding put in.
Aside from the Opportunity Grant, Ryan spoke of the need for criminal justice reform and giving judges more discretion when deciding sentences for non-violent offenders. He also established that if a federal agency proposes a regulation that will have a negative impact on low income families, that agency will have to take its case to Congress before it can be implemented.
Ryan’s plan to fight poverty ultimately stresses cutting bureaucratic red tape and giving more power and accountability to states and local communities. Rather than having a federal government that wastes taxpayer dollars on ineffective programs, this plan consolidates funding and gives it back to the states to ensure the social safety net actually protects the needy and helps communities prosper.