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Lowman Henry Column on PA’s Anti-Poverty Efforts

Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research Inc.: GOP launches a new ‘war on poverty.’

By Lowman S. Henry

In his 1964 State of the Union Address President Lyndon Johnson launched what became known as the “war on poverty” saying: “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it, and above all to prevent it.”

The “war on poverty” has been lost because the central theme of Johnson’s address got subverted to the cause of big government. Anti-poverty programs sought not to “relieve the symptom of poverty,” but rather to entrap poverty stricken families in a web of government dependency. At that the “war” has been successful as, for example, a record 47 million U.S. households today receive food stamps.

Although President Johnson’s anti-poverty initiative failed in its stated goal, it has been a resounding political success for his party. Under the guise of compassion, Democrats have been successful in creating an entire class of voters dependent on government. As a result entitlement programs now make up an unsustainable percentage of the federal budget and are driving trillion dollar budget deficits.

Conversely, Republicans have been portrayed as modern day Scrooges who care more about the bottom line than about the needs of poor Americans. While the negative fiscal impact of deficit spending is real, the GOP has enhanced this reputation by failing to provide realistic solutions to fighting poverty through the provision of human services.

That, however, is changing.

In what is shaping up as a major change in how Republican policy-makers deal with poverty and the confusing and inefficient labyrinth of human service programs designed to combat it, major initiatives are underway at both the state and national level to develop a new – and hopefully more effective – anti-poverty paradigm.

At the national level Congressman Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 Vice Presidential nominee, has spent years researching and developing his Expanding Opportunities in America program. Ryan proposes reforms to the nation’s educational and social safety net programs. He also wants a review and streamlining of the thousands of federal regulations that frequently are a roadblock to providing effective services.

State Representative David Reed, who serves as Majority Policy Chairman, last year launched his Empowering Opportunities: Gateways out of Poverty Initiative. Reed returns to Lyndon Johnson’s original promise saying: “With more than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians struggling in poverty today, our responsibility is to begin the discussion anew on the most effective and successful means of transitioning our citizens from a life of poverty to self-sustainability.”

Congressman Ryan and Representative Reed have thus laid the groundwork for a major change in the way our nation and state address dealing with persistent poverty. But, bringing about such systemic change will not be easy. Defenders of the status quo will predictably claim the proposals lack compassion, and some conservatives will balk at a continued major role for government in combating poverty.

After fifty years of failure it is crystal clear that what we have been doing simply hasn’t worked. Ryan and Reed are proposing a way forward that could begin the process of actually addressing the root causes of poverty in a way designed to lift people out of government dependency. At this point we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying.


To read the entire article…Click Here

Team Leader Rep. Rosemary Brown’s Prized Linked Savings Highlighted on National Front

Prize-linked savings at CUs part of Pa. poverty policy

The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) is supporting a new state policy initiative to combat poverty by using tools such as prize-linked savings (PLS) accounts.

Earlier this month, State Rep. Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe) introduced HB 2543, which would allow certain financial institutions, including credit unions, to offer saving rewards programs.

“Credit unions have played an integral role in developing PLS programs as part of their ongoing effort to help members enhance financial literacy, save money, and improve spending and debt management habits,” Conway wrote.

In the Oct. 28 issue of Life is a Highway, Conway also commended the work of Brown and Pennsylvania House Majority Policy Committee Chair Dave Reed (R-Indiana) to promote solutions to build wealth.

“Studies indicate that consumers are not saving for their futures and programs to promote saving is a win for all consumers,” Conway added. “Credit unions work daily to better the lives of members, and this initiative is another avenue to assist them.”

To read the entire article…Click Here

Prize-Linked Savings: A New Financial Savings Tool, By Patrick Conway President & CEO, Pennsylvania Credit Union Association

In March 2014 the aggregate personal savings rate, defined as the ratio of total savings to after tax income, was only 3.8%. A 2013 survey found that 27% of all Americans had no emergency savings, while another 23% had some but could not cover three months of living expenses. Low-income families struggle the most to accrue savings. (Source)

Pat Conway - Original

Prize-linked savings (PLS) accounts, an idea invented and incubated by credit unions, continue to gather steam nationally. The concept is to transition non-regular savers into regular savers. With as little as $25, a credit union member can open an account and enter a drawing for monthly and annual cash prizes. Some will win prize money, but those who do not will still benefit from having started an interest-generating savings account. Credit unions fund the program, thereby achieving the public policy goal of increasing savings with no cost to the state.

Across the country, states are passing legislation allowing credit unions to offer PLS accounts. In Pennsylvania, Representative Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe) introduced House Bill 2543, which will allow certain financial institutions to operate PLS programs. The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) supports this pro-consumer, pro-savings legislation.

Credit unions have played an integral role in developing PLS programs as part of their ongoing effort to help members enhance financial literacy, save money, and improve spending and debt management habits. We commend Representative Rosemary Brown for her efforts to be innovative in improving the financial well-being of Pennsylvania consumers.

To read more about the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, Click Here!

Team Leader Rep. Stephens Discusses Social Impact Bonds with Pre-K Providers, Law Enforcement and Legislators

Montgomery County law enforcement leaders endorse Pre-K programs

By Marian Dennis, The Mercury News

One of the many discussions that went on at the meeting involved funding for childhood programs.

Rep. Stephens explained that Goldman Sachs did a $17 million program in Chicago that will put 2,600 more children in Pre-K programs near Chicago using private investor dollars. Stephens explained that he is determined to bring that to Pennsylvania. The financial institutions he has spokePre-K Press Conference Photon with have loved the idea of social impact financing when it comes to paying for early childhood education.

Stephens explained, “We know we’re going to save money in special-ed costs down the road when kids are in high quality pre-K programs. We know we’re going to save in corrections costs down the road. All of the savings are down the road.”

Stephens continued that social impact financing would allow the savings, which would be seen with the implementation of early childhood programs, to be shared later with the private investors that supply the funding for now. He continued to explain that philanthropic dollars could be used as a backstop to minimize some of the risk for the private sector.

“We’ve got the big financial institutions and we’ve got the big philanthropic organizations and everyone loves the concept so now I’m working to get those pieces all to connect together,” Stephens said.

Access to quality pre-K can ultimately preserve tax payer dollars by decreasing dropout rates, save taxpayers money by decreasing crime and incarceration and boost the economy through increased lifetime earnings, according to Pre-K for PA.

To Read the Entire Article…Click Here


Team Leader Rep. Stephens and Other Legislative Leaders Visit Pre-K, Discuss Access to Early Educational Opportunities

Local legislators, law enforcement officials meet in Lower Providence to support Pre-K for PA

By Brendan Wills, The Times Herald

LOWER PROVIDENCE >> During a Pre-K for PA campaign workshop Thursday morning at the Play and Learn Collegeville early childhood education center, local law enforcements officials, legislators and education specialists unanimously voiced their support for increased funding to early childhood education.

Play and Learn Program Coordinator, Melanie Godhania; Play and Learn Collegeville Center Director, Jill Law; State Director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Bruce Clash; Limerick Township Police Chief, William Albany; Upper Gwynedd Township Police Chief, David Duffy; District Attorney, Risa Ferman; State Rep. Mike Vereb (R – 150th Dist.); State Rep. Todd Stephens (R – 151st Dist.); and State Sen. John Rafferty (R – 44th Dist.), met to discuss how access to early childhood education not only helps children succeed in life, but also helps to lower the costs of incarcerating criminals who did not have adequate education to guide them through life.

“It’s a strategic time to reprioritize investments and make pre-K a priority over the next four years,” Clash said, pointing to the disparity in funds spent in Pennsylvania on incarceration and pre-K.


To Read More of the Article…Click Here

September, Hunger Action Month in Pennsylvania

Resource deployment key in combating poverty, hunger 

Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, September 8, 2014/Categories: News and Views
While many things in policymaking are difficult to ascertain, one thing is for certain: poverty leads to a greater chance of hunger or food insecurity.Food Bank- Dave and Wheatley

“There’s a lot of working-class families in Pennsylvania with children who are missing meals because they are making life decisions between the meal and clothing or medicine and things like that,” said Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny), co-chair of the Legislative Hunger Caucus. “Your economics definitely correlates to your ability to provide food for yourself and your family.”

Rep. Wheatley noted that his family was food insecure when he was growing up.

“I didn’t realize I was considered food insecure, but the fact [was] that me and my three siblings we would eat and my parents would wait until we were well fed first before they sat down and eat.”

He stated poverty and hunger is a vicious cycle that will not end without broader help from society and government.

“It’s incumbent upon society to try to help families, especially working class families, to not have to worry about the bare necessities of food so that they can keep their mind and spirits focused on being productive members of society,” he said.

Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana), chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, has been taking his committee on a commonwealth-wide listening tour on the issue of poverty, finding out the root causes of poverty in Pennsylvania and what can be done to resolve the issue.

He agreed that poverty and hunger go hand-in-hand.

“People in poverty are more likely to experience hunger or—at a bare minimum—the lack of a nutritious diet,” he said. “It’s very difficult for people to find gainful employment or an educational program or find a job training program if they haven’t had a good meal for two, three, [or] four days at a time.”

Both members agreed that poverty—and thereby hunger—affects Pennsylvanians in rural, urban, and suburban settings.

“When I talk about poverty and hunger, it’s certainly not an urban, suburban, or rural problem: it’s all of our issue, it impacts all of our production,” said Rep. Wheatley. “The fact that we don’t address it or don’t find solutions for it only drags down all of our abilities to really grow our Commonwealth and our economy.”

When it comes to solving the issue, both members also agree that stop-gap measure—while necessary in emergent situations—will not end poverty and associated hunger.

To read the rest of the article… Click Here

Reinventing Human Services: Chairman Reed w/Lowman Henry Lincoln Radio Journal

This week, Chairman Reed joined Lowman Henry discussing ways the Empowering Opportunities: Gateways Out of Poverty initiative and the newly named ten Team Leaders are preparing for the “Reinvention of Human Services”. Many of the state’s local radio stations will air the interview this weekend, but if you’d like to listen to it now, you can stream it live by… Clicking Here

Commonwealth Foundation Podcast with Opportunity House

Podcast: Profiles in Perseverance, Overcoming Poverty


“Bobbi was struggling. A single mom of two kids, she had a job but no place to live. Thanks to Opportunity House in Reading, Pennsylvania, Bobbi found a home and eventually advanced her career by becoming an operations manager for the non-profit organization.

Tracy was homeless when she first came to Opportunity House’s shelter. Today, Tracy works three jobs to support her children, and she’s a school crossing guard. Her kids are finishing high school and are on track to attend college.

What do these success stories have in common? Both show that moving out of poverty takes a lot of support.

We spoke to Opportunity House’s president, Modesto Fiume, to find out how they are overcoming poverty in Reading, one of the nation’s poorest cities. Modesto explains, “It takes a lot of commitment. It takes a lot of hard work. It’s not something that happens overnight—there’s no quick fix here.”

Lifting families out of poverty isn’t only on Modesto’s mind. Key players at all levels of government are trying to get a handle on poverty.

In Washington, D.C., Congressman Paul Ryan released a book and policy paper focused on reforming welfare. His Opportunity Grant combines eleven different programs into one funding stream for states. Most critically, benefits are tied to work requirements, because Ryan and others recognize that work is about more than just a paycheck. Work provides purpose and builds self-worth.

In Harrisburg, the House Majority Policy Committee, led by Rep. Dave Reed, is spearheading the Gateways out of Poverty initiative. The committee spoke with the poor and community organizations to indentify common barriers and areas where public policy can make a positive impact.  

Among those focus areas is Benefits That Work, where lawmakers are working to address the disjointed system of benefits that punishes families for working more hours or receiving a promotion.”


To read the rest of the article and listen to the podcast… Click Here.

WITF Smart Talk: What’s the Answer to Poverty in PA?

Chairman Reed with Host Scott LaMar, June 18th 2014

“Today, more than 12 percent of Pennsylvania’s population lives in poverty – equal to about 1.5 million residents. It isn’t just confined to the inner cities or very rural areas either, but reaches all communities throughout the state, affecting everyone from college graduates struggling with loans to single-parent households.

According to federal guidelines, a single person with an income of less than $11,670 is living in poverty.  For a family of four, the poverty rate is $23,850.

On Thursday’s Smart Talk we will examine the state’s newest policy initiative created to combat poverty, Empowering Opportunities: Gateways Out of Poverty. Designed for the purpose of analyzing the barriers that keep individuals and families from overcoming poverty, it also surveys the best and worst practices for Pennsylvanians in their war against poverty.”


To listen to the entire interview…Click Here

Kevin Jenkins on the ‘What Works” Approach to Poverty, TribReview

A ‘What Works’ approach to poverty

By Kevin Jenkins
Friday, June 6, 2014

State Rep. Dave Reed is on the right path, headed in the right direction, to reduce poverty in Pennsylvania.

For far too long we have had a polarized debate over poverty. Many on the right view poverty as a personal moral failure. If the poor pull themselves up by their bootstraps, they would not be poor. On the left, many advocate for more money, believing that if we keep doing and funding the same things we have over the past 40 years, somehow we will finally get it right.

Both sides are wrong, and the Indiana County Republican legislator is taking steps to bring members of both camps together to seek solutions to poverty rather than bitter partisanship.

This year, Reed and his party’s Policy Committee embarked on a wide-ranging examination of poverty called “Empowering Opportunities: Gateways Out of Poverty.” By taking time to listen, ask questions, take testimony and learn from hundreds of experts, providers, consumers of services and everyday taxpayers, the committee identified poverty’s 13 barriers without getting into polarized political talking points.

This is exactly why The Pittsburgh Foundation, along with the United Way of Allegheny County and the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership, started the Campaign for What Works — a statewide initiative committed to changing the tone of the debate around human services by supporting programs that work for the consumer, taxpayer and state.

To read the rest of the editorial… Click Here.