A Message from the CEO
On July 24, 2014 Congressman Paul Ryan released his plan for poverty, "Expanding Opportunity in America." Congress releases some sort of plan about poverty every year but this year it peaked my interest for two reasons: One, it was released on the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty and; two the Executive Director of the National Community Foundation met with Congressman Ryan on the day the report was released to see what role Community Action Agencies could play if all or part of these recommendations were to become law. It was at his encouragement that I read it.
On the positive side, the plan encourages innovation, creates incentives for the poor and identifies key areas for change. There is a clearer understanding of the issues the poor face every day.
On the other hand it also has some problems. It calls for an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to increase the tax credit itself to childless citizens. That's a good thing. It's just not clear how the expansion will be paid for.
The plan calls for the 12 major anti-poverty programs (SNAP, LIHEAP, HUD, etc) to be consolidated and block granted to states. But states have a poor track record when it comes to administering block grants designed to reduce poverty. Block grants can also easily have funds cut as OFO had witnessed recently with the Sequester.
Innovation and incentives are built in largely around employment, but it does not address the fact that there are still two job applicants in this country for every job opening. And it does not address a $3 increase in the minimum wage which would single-handedly move many people out of poverty.
Nonetheless it's good when there is national debate on poverty. Let's not settle for the last 50 years as being lackluster. Community Action Agencies and Head Start programs have done great and innovative things in the past 50 years despite dwindling resources and will continue the good fight!