A Better Way to Fight Poverty: Solutions, not Band-Aids

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) • October 28, 2016

Forty-three million. That’s the number of Americans living in poverty.

To put the enormity of this number in perspective, it is equal to the population of our nation’s largest urban area – New York City – multiplied by five.

Tragically, the fate of these 43 million Americans and the fate of their children and their children’s children can be predicted just by looking at history. Generations of statistics all point to the same conclusion – poverty is a cycle.

But we do not need data points to tell us what our eyes can already see.

Much of my three decades in law enforcement were spent working with the greater Seattle area’s most vulnerable communities. While everyone’s story was filled with different details, the pattern was usually the same. An unstable family life, inadequate education or skills training, and addiction or substance abuse combined with the absence of hope for the future laid the path toward living in poverty or on the streets. Many of these children just didn’t have a chance.

Instead of addressing the causes of poverty, for decades the federal government has spent taxpayer dollars on redundant, ineffective, and one size fits all government programs that only attempt to fix the result. American families need solutions, not Band-Aids.

House Republicans have put forward A Better Way to Fight Poverty that doesn’t just treat the symptoms of poverty but breaks the cycle and lifts up families. Our plan will reward work, tailor benefits to people’s needs, improve education and skills training, and focus on results so we can invest in what works.

And we are not just putting out ideas. We are putting those ideas into action.

The House passed the Families First Prevention Services Act that focuses federal foster care funding on prevention services to keep families together and children out of the system.  This is a great example of investing in what works. For the first time the federal government will pay for services to prevent abuse and neglect and allow states to fund evidence-based programs to address parental substance abuse.

A strong family and access to education and training are critical to breaking the cycle of poverty.  And we know that the best type of skills training happens on the job.  When employers are providing or supporting the training, workers are learning the exact skills they need for the job, and even better, they’re making money while doing it.

Take for example Van Doren Sales, a company that designs and builds fruit and container-handling equipment in my home state of Washington. The family-owned business provides their entry level workers, many of whom have little more than a high school degree, on-the-job training.  They also pay for employees to take classes at a local community or technical college to gain additional skills or to participate in a certificate program. This is a win-win for both the employer and employee. Our plan will incentivize more businesses to be like Van Doren Sales so individuals don’t just get a job, they get on a career path that will keep them out of poverty.

These are just a few of the Better Way agenda’s guiding principles in our charge to take down poverty.

It’s a platform focused on the individual and is dedicated to creating opportunity rather than growing government. It demands results and holds programs accountable, and when implemented it will empower Americans to take control of their own lives and decide their own fate, not only for their benefit but for the benefit of their children and generations to come.