Newsworks-WHYY Article On Initiative

After closeup look at poverty, Pa. lawmaker to begin work on policy

By Holly Otterbein

December 6, 2013

A Pennsylvania GOP lawmaker has finished the first part of his mission to learn more about the nearly 1.8 million people in the state living in poverty.

Indiana County state Rep. Dave Reed and other Republican legislators spent the last five months crisscrossing the state, traveling everywhere from the Poconos to North Philadelphia, and talking to low-income residents, government officials and advocates for the poor.

Reed said he has learned that there is near-unanimous consent among those people that the government and nonprofit sector’s current efforts to combat poverty are insufficient. He expected at least some advocates to defend the status quo.

“Probably the most eye-opening component to me was the recognition by so many folks at the grassroots level that the system was broken,” he said, as well as the “frustration that a lot of folks held that they didn’t feel like there was any hope of actually changing the system for the better.”

Reed explored education, homelessness, financial literacy, public assistance programs and hunger. On the latter issue, he expressed concerns about the across-the-board cuts to the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps, that went into effect last month.

“It’s a little frustrating to hear folks always focus on cutting benefits in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Perhaps if they look at the integrity of the [food stamps] program, and some common-sense changes with the program and give the states a little bit more flexibility, we could actually make those dollars go further and serve the truly needy in a more effective manner than just arbitrarily cutting benefits across the board.”



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