Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chair of the House Committee on the Budget, released a broad anti-poverty plan, Expanding Opportunity in America, on July 24. The plan could result in a decrease in funding to housing programs targeted to extremely low income households. Notably, Mr. Ryan proposes consolidating a number of means-tested anti-poverty programs, including the major federal housing programs, into a pilot block grant program called “Opportunity Grants.” The pilot would be carried out in a limited number of states, affording them great flexibility in deciding how to use federal anti-poverty funds.
Mr. Ryan would consolidate the Housing Choice Voucher program, Public Housing Capital and Operating Funds, the Section 8 Project-based Rental Assistance program, and Rural Development’s Section 521 Rental Assistance program. Other related programs subject to consolidation into Opportunity Grants include the Community Development Block Grant program, the Weatherization Assistance Program, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Other means-tested programs to be consolidated into Opportunity Grants include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, the Child Care and Development fund, and Workforce Investment Act Dislocated Workers program.
Reactions from Democrats have been negative, especially from Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Budget Committee. While Ranking Member Van Hollen acknowledged a few bright points of the plan such as the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), he said in a written statement, "The majority of what Mr. Ryan is proposing is not new and will not help more Americans get out of poverty. It is part of an ongoing Republican effort to put programs into easily-cut block grants, while at the same time putting new red tape between those who need help and our arsenal of weapons in the War on Poverty that have effectively helped millions of Americans going through hard times.”
However, there are a few elements that might receive bipartisan consensus, such as the proposed doubling of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for adults without children, and a lowering of the EITC eligibility age.
NLIHC will provide a more detailed analysis of the plan in a future Memo.
Expanding Opportunity in America is at http://budget.house.gov/uploadedfiles/expanding_opportunity_in_america.pdf