This proposal would create a new program called the Opportunity Grant, a pilot project to coordinate aid for families in need. In participating states, the federal government would consolidate up to 11 means-tested programs into one funding stream. Each state would receive the same amount of money as under current law; the project would be deficit neutral. But each state would have more flexibility to integrate public and private assistance and provide customized aid.
- Greater Flexibility: Instead of following rigid formulas set by a distant bureaucracy, states would be able to use federal funds to support programs shaped by local conditions, such as case management. And instead of having to sign up for different benefits with different requirements at different locations, each person would receive assistance in one location and in conjunction with an overall plan to help them get off assistance and onto their preferred career track.
- Greater Accountability: To participate in the program, each state must write a plan outlining its goals, implementation strategy, and metrics of success. The project would hold both recipients and providers accountable. Able-bodied recipients would have to work or engage in work-related activities. To promote choice and competition among providers, states would accredit governmental and nongovernmental organizations and keep track of their progress. Providers that failed to perform would be disqualified from participating in the future.
- Protections for the Elderly, the Disabled, and Recipients of Federal Housing Assistance: Participating states must provide the same level of assistance to the elderly and disabled—either by maintaining the current programs or dedicating the same amount of resources to them in the new program. Finally, because of the unique features of federal housing programs, states could choose to maintain those programs separate from their Opportunity Grant funding.
Poverty is a very complex problem, and Washington doesn’t have all the answers. This proposal is not meant to serve as the final word, but to start a conversation all across the country. Anyone with questions or comments about this proposal can contact the committee at ExpandingOpportunity@mail.house.gov.
By opening up the debate, we hope to help the best ideas prevail and to empower our communities to expand opportunity in America.