| WASHINGTON, July 24
WASHINGTON, July 24 Aiming to shake up the
debate over fighting poverty, Republican Representative Paul
Ryan on Thursday called for charities, community groups and even
for-profit firms to compete with government in spending taxpayer
money to aid the poor.
Presenting his plan for a sweeping revamp of social safety
net programs, Ryan said he wanted to give families more choice
in how they receive taxpayer-funded assistance. He proposed
replacing some 11 programs ranging from food stamps to housing
vouchers with "opportunity grants" given to states to tailor aid
to individual needs.
The plan would shift the federal government's anti-poverty
role largely to one of vetting state programs to distribute aid,
and they would have to give the poor a choice of providers.
"There wouldn't just be a federal agency or a state agency,"
Ryan said in remarks prepared for delivery to the American
Enterprise Institute. "Instead, they could choose from a list of
certified providers. We're talking non-profits, or for-profits,
or even community groups unique to your neighborhood."
He described the case of a 24-year-old single mother of two
with a high school education, two years of retail work
experience and dreams of one day being a teacher. Instead of
relying on food stamps, housing vouchers and welfare checks, she
could go to a social services provider, sit down with a case
manager to develop an "opportunity plan" to meet her goals,
targeting money where it is needed most.
This could result in payments for transportation and child
care so that she could meet her goals of going to college while
working in retail. The catch: she would have to sign a contract
and meet certain benchmarks for success, such as learning new
skills or seeking work. Failure would means a cut in aid while
exceeding expectations would earn a bonus. There also would be a
time limit on assistance.
Ryan argued that current federal programs only treat
symptoms of poverty and do little to get people's lives back on
Ryan, the Republican Party's vice presidential candidate in
2012, is best known for his budget blueprints marked by deep
domestic spending cuts. But this time, the chairman of the House
Budget Committee said he wants to keep overall social safety net
funding at the same levels.
Democrats were gearing up to bash the plan as a way to do
away with programs that have formed the core of federal
anti-poverty efforts since the 1960s.
"We will oppose any plan that uses the sunny language of
'reform' as a guise to cut vital safety-net programs," U.S.
Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, and U.S.
Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, wrote in
an opinion piece published online on Wednesday by the Huffington
Bob Woodson, who helped develop Ryan's plan as founder of
the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, said Ryan's grant
program would be more flexible and better tailored to poor
"Everything is intended to reward work," said Woodson, whose
tax-exempt non-profit group supports organizations in troubled
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Bill Trott
and Chizu Nomiyama)