On October 28, the House Budget Committee held a hearing, Restoring the Trust of America’s Most Vulnerable, to examine and improve the efficacy of safety-net programs for families who live in poverty.
In his opening statement, Committee Chair Tom Price (R-GA) noted the failure of many safety-net programs, including housing programs. “Housing assistance is bogged down in bureaucracy and waste. It’s time to stop measuring the success of these programs by how much money we spend and instead focus on how many people are we actually helping,” Chair Price stated.
Larry Woods, representing the Housing Authority of the City of Winston-Salem (NC), testified that his housing authority administers 4,500 housing choice vouchers and manages an additional 1,300 public housing units. He focused his remarks on what he sees as the structural deficiencies of the public housing and voucher programs. “Our current system is broken. Our approach is flawed,” Mr. Woods said. Mr. Woods spoke about people being stuck in the system. He thinks the programs tend “to focus on people getting in, not out” and many residents become “content with maintaining the status quo.” Mr. Woods said there are no work incentives in the current assisted housing programs and spoke in favor of work requirements, supporting the Moving to Work (MTW) program because its “goal is to grow people out of public housing.”
Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy, an anti-poverty organization, testified that the nation’s core economic security programs are highly effective and that they already incentivize work. Ms. Golden said, “The overwhelming empirical evidence is that the safety net as a whole supports work, particularly for low-income parents. It is not too much support for work but too little, such as the absence of help with child care or the instability associated with not being able to afford a stable residence, that typically holds people back from working.”
Ms. Golden also challenged the idea that flexibility can compensate for inadequate funding, saying, “Taking advantage of flexibility to get rid of extra bureaucratic steps can save modest administrative costs, but it doesn’t come close to filling the gaps in seriously underfunded programs.”
Ranking Member Van Chris Hollen (D-MD) acknowledged that the federal discretionary budget funds programs with work disincentives that need to be examined and fixed, but he also stated that the nation might need to invest more, not less, to eliminate disincentives.
For additional information, visit http://budget.house.gov/hearingschedule2015/restoring-the-trust-for-america-s-most-vulnerable.htm