Paul Ryan’s Anti-Poverty Plan Would Have Devastating Impact in Washington State

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Paul Ryan’s Anti-Poverty Plan Would Have Devastating Impact in Washington State

By - July 25, 2014

Elena Hernandez & Lori Pfingst -House Budget Chair Paul Ryan’s new anti-poverty proposal
doesn’t reflect reality and would have damaging effects for Washington state’s
low income children and families.  On
Tuesday, we highlighted data from the 2014 KIDS COUNT Databook demonstrating that kids in our state continue to see declines in economic
well-being, making this new proposal all the more concerning.

Under Chairman Ryan’s proposal, all federal safety net
programs (including rental assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)) would be
rolled into a single block grant provided to the states, misleadingly called an
“Opportunity Grant.”  This fixed funding
structure would prevent safety net programs from being able to respond to
increases in need.

History has shown that block grants, which provide a fixed
amount of funding, regardless of changes in need, stifle the ability of safety
net programs to achieve their main goal of mitigating the impact of economic
hardship on children and families.

The difference in how TANF, funded via a federal block
grant, and SNAP, an entitlement program, responded during the recession is
illustrative of the problem with Chairman Ryan’s proposal.  The fixed funding structure of TANF was
unable to respond to rising need in Washington state during the recession.  The figure below illustrates
that while poverty rates for children and families continued to climb following
the recession, the proportion of low income and poor children receiving TANF
declined.  In 2008, for every 100 kids
living at or below the poverty line, TANF provided support to nearly 40. By
2012, that number declined to just 28 out of 100 kids.  In contrast, SNAP, with its more flexible
funding structure, was able to react to increased demand during the recession
(see figure below).  In 2008, SNAP
provided support for roughly 45 out of every 100 low income
Washingtonians.  The proportion increased
to about 67 out of every 100 low income Washingtonians by 2012.

2014_July_25_Ryan_safetynet

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warns that Chairman Ryan’s proposal to combine all of
the safety net programs into one block grant would pit these important programs
against one another, leading to cuts for basic assistance programs that have
historically performed well, like SNAP (read more here).  According to CBPP, restructuring
funding into block grants will lead to reduced federal funding over time as it
becomes increasingly challenging to identify need within these programs.   Our
analysis of the 2014 KIDS COUNT Databook illustrated that kids and families in
Washington continue to see declines in economic well-being.  Paul Ryan’s plan would only serve to
intensify these issues.  In order to put
our economy back on track, we need policies that reflect reality and tackle
systemic poverty by ensuring meaningful pathways to opportunity.