WASHINGTON, June 8, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Friends Committee on National welcomes the release of the House Task Force plan on Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility, initiated by Speaker Paul Ryan. The task force has given Congress some worthy ideas to consider and debate. However, FCNL remains concerned that certain task force recommendations, particularly some of the work requirements, could lead to increased hardship for individuals who face serious barriers to employment.
"Ending poverty is not a pipe dream reserved only for prophetic statements. It is a vision we can truly achieve. But our elected leaders need to make it a priority," said Diane Randall, Executive Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation. "As people of faith, we are encouraged by Speaker Ryan's sincere commitment to addressing poverty. We need a robust discussion and debate about anti-poverty polices that shape the wellbeing of people in every community across the country. I urge other elected leaders to put forth their own plans."
Two weeks ago, FCNL joined other faith leaders in the Circle of Protection, a coalition of heads of religious organizations and denominations from all the main families of U.S. Christianity, in a letter to all members of the Poverty Task Force outlining the fundamental policy principles they sought included in the poverty recommendations: www.circleofprotection.us/taskforce.
FCNL is pleased to see that the plan released today aligns with some key principles in that letter. We were especially pleased to see the plan did not include block grants or merge funding streams of core safety net programs, such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) and housing assistance. (FCNL is concerned, however, that vague language around consolidating programs could open the door to block grants in the future, which we oppose because they fail to effectively respond to economic downturns and tend to get cut over time.)
Other positive aspects of the plan include its affirmation of the dignity of work and importance of good jobs as the best path out of poverty; the importance of early childhood education; the critical role asset building has in economic mobility; and the degree to which work supports, such as access to affordable child care, transportation, and stable housing, are necessary for upward mobility.
However, FCNL has strong concerns about the plan's proposal to model work requirements for housing assistance on those that exist in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. "It's hard to look for a job when you're focused on finding your next meal or stable housing. Making work or job preparation a condition of receiving basic core benefits, such as food and housing assistance, won't work, especially if the jobs or service programs aren't available or funded," said Randall. "We have a lot of data showing that work requirements don't get people employed. More effective is providing access to education and job training programs and support services to help people get a job and address major barriers to employment. " Additionally, the plan fails to include remedies for addressing the well documented link between poverty and racial injustice.
"Success will require common ground and bipartisan collaboration," added Randall. "FCNL is committed to pursuing a vision of the world where everyone is able to live with dignity and fulfill his or her potential."
The Friends Committee on National Legislation (www.fcnl.org) is a Quaker lobby in the public interest.
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SOURCE Friends Committee on National Legislation