Beyond Poverty - Empowering Opportunities
Rep. Dave Reed took part in a news conference that was held at the Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg to unveil the House Majority Policy Committee’s “Beyond Poverty” report. As committee chairman, Reed headed up the “Empowering Opportunities: Gateways Out of Poverty” initiative, which spent months gathering input from community groups, nonprofits and municipal officials on barriers to self-sufficiency for low-income Pennsylvanians.


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Background

Over the last several years, state policymakers have focused on helping Pennsylvanians recover from the recession by creating more jobs and getting residents back to work. While this focus is critical, the state cannot overlook those who were struggling in a cycle of poverty.

In 2013, when House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) was chairman of the House Policy Committee, he launched the “Empowering Opportunities: Gateways Out of Poverty” initiative. From urban and suburban communities to the state’s most rural areas, poverty continues to grip far too many Pennsylvania families. Recognizing that many of the 1.6 million Pennsylvanians currently living in poverty are unaware that the American Dream even exists, the initiative breaks down government-made barriers to self-sufficiency and looks for ways to return that dream to those who need it most.

Over the course of two years, and with the help of more than 100 community leaders, nonprofits and faith-based organizations throughout the Commonwealth, legislators from the House Republican Caucus forged policy ideas and legislative proposals aimed to assist families and individuals in breaking the cycle of poverty.

“Our goal is not only to help families escape poverty, but to create permanent gateways toward new opportunities.” – Rep. Dave Reed



Current Legislative Action: Fostering Public Policy for the American Dream

The committee’s findings and recommendations were compiled in the “Beyond Poverty” report (above), which was released in April 2014. Subsequently, 10 legislators worked to propose legislative and policy solutions. Those proposals include:

House Bill 1164 – “Benefits That Work” (Signed into law as Act 92 of 2015)
Reps. Tom Murt (R-Philadelphia/Montgomery) and Steve Bloom (R-Cumberland)

There is a serious need for a comprehensive evaluation of our public assistance programs in the Commonwealth. Aimed at both protecting our hard-earned taxpayer dollars while encouraging families to earn their way out of poverty, a new perspective is necessary to assess the downfalls and incentives in our current benefits’ structure.

House Bills 752, 934 and 1053 – “Educating for Opportunity” (House Bill 934 signed into law as Act 92 of 2015)
Reps. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) and Jim Christiana (R-Beaver)

Access to quality education has the potential to be the great equalizer in our society. From early childhood learning opportunities to appropriate training in postsecondary atmospheres, education provides the essential foundation for gainful employment.

House Bill 1205 – “Outcomes that Matter”
Reps. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland)

Far too often, government seeks to measure program results merely by counting the number of people participating in a program. Unless policy makers establish long-term visions for anti-poverty programs, where agencies are held accountable for the success of an individual, Pennsylvania will only continue to provide short-term solutions for our neediest citizens.

House Bill 837 – “Life Skills 101”
Reps. Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe) and Dan Truitt (R-Chester)

A competitive economy requires a workforce that not only understands the rules of the workplace, but also the rules of life. From basic understanding of finances, to the soft skills needed for employment, individuals from all income brackets continue to be in need of basic skills necessary for financial security and successful careers.

“The Essentials”
Reps. Becky Corbin (R-Chester) and Tommy Sankey (R-Clearfield)

Any conversation on poverty in Pennsylvania must first begin by addressing the basic needs of life: food, shelter and clothing. By first meeting the basic necessities of life, we provide a first step in the transformational experience from poverty to self-sufficiency.

Further details on each piece of legislation are available here
 


Policy Committee Press Conference on Empowering Opportunities Initiative 
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