As House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan prepares to unveil his proposal to address poverty, Olivia Golden of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) today took a closer look at the experiences of six states to debunk common myths about the delivery of safety net programs.
[S]ome commenters have criticized major anti-poverty programs like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) as so complex, rigid, difficult to administer, and impossible to package together that they need fundamental change. These critics’ recommended changes include merging the programs into a block grant, allowing states discretion over major program provisions through waivers, or delegating discretion below the level of states, to local governments or case managers.
These proposals are deeply risky for families. . . . And we just don’t need to take those risks. New information from the states continues to build the evidence that massive overhaul is simply not necessary to achieve the goal of more streamlined and integrated program administration.
Golden explained that the experiences of the six states involved in the Work Support Strategies (WSS) initiative — a project coordinated by CBPP, CLASP, and the Urban Institute that is designing, testing, and implementing more effective, streamlined, and integrated approaches to delivering key supports for low-income working families — offer lessons for how to improve safety net programs.
Rather than let myths drive suggested remedies to the safety net, let’s build on success and follow the evidence about what changes can really make a difference. Rather than massive overhauls that would only undercut effective programs, we need to build on what some states are already doing: delivering health and nutrition assistance, help with child care, and other core work supports smoothly, speedily, and as an integrated package to all eligible families.