How Will Paul Ryan’s Anti-Poverty Plan Affect Social Welfare and Social Services Programs

Paul Ryan pretending to wash pans.
Paul Ryan pretending to wash pans.

Recently, Paul Ryan released a new anti-poverty plan which he claims will empower poor Americans and create life opportunities. His plan calls for providing individual case managers to help develop goals and target money where it is specifically needed. Under the Ryan plan, Congress would “reward” social agencies after they can prove that clients’ benchmarks have been achieved. The plan for re-distribution of anti-poverty program funding in the form of block grants would have strings attached to positive outcomes.

How outcomes will be measured and determined to be successes or failures are vague. This is concerning in light of the fact Ryan did not address the proposed reduction in funds to evaluate outcomes.

According to the Daily Kos,

“TANF Research Funds are used by the Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate the effectiveness of different state TANF programs and to develop new approaches for improving employment outcomes among TANF recipients. These funds date back to the inception of the TANF program in 1996 and have been included in each extension of TANF since. If this cut is enacted, studies currently being conducted on vocational training, job search services, and other initiatives would be severely disrupted.”

After listening to Paul Ryan’s concerns about the shrinking middle class and long term unemployment at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), my ultimate conclusion is that his potential plan is a bunch of double talks. John Boehner, the House GOP leader, during the same AEI conference, perpetuated the myth that unemployed Americans are just lazy and enabled by government programs. The leader has defended the position by stating that EUC prevents people from looking for work.

Having case managers customize plans on a 1:1 basis for millions of social services clients sounds great, but it is unworkable. It will create higher demand and an increased burden on an already overworked system. Referrals to separate agencies for services would still be necessary. Where are the cost savings or reductions in bureaucracy?

But the evidence doesn’t support that argument. The economy has indeed improved, but not for the long-term unemployed, whose odds of finding a job are barely higher today than when the recession ended nearly five years ago. And the end of extended benefits hasn’t spurred the unemployed back to work; if anything, it has pushed them out of the labor force altogether. Of the roughly 1.3 million Americans whose benefits disappeared with the end of the program, only about a quarter had found jobs as of March, about the same success rate as when the program was still in effect; roughly another quarter had given up searching.  ~FiveThirtyEight

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the number of unemployed workers losing benefits is growing steadily by 72,000 each week. If Congressional leaders want a proven anti-poverty program it behooves them to renew Emergency Unemployment Insurance. The failure to support an extension will cost  240,000 jobs by the end of the year. If unemployed workers lose their car, or cannot afford gas, or their phone bills, the chances of them finding a job and getting back to work decline significantly.

As a recent Bachelor of Social Work graduate, I went back to school in order to upgrade my skills. When I began my unpaid field work internship last winter, my benefits lapsed, I was unable to meet my basic needs or have gas to drive to my internship. Fortunately for me, new state funds became available, and I was able to complete my degree. However, this is not the case for many long-term unemployed Americans. How does having to drop of out school and training programs that will upgrade your skills align with Ryan’s plan for opportunity?

House GOP leaders’ refusal to bring the bipartisan Senate Emergency Unemployment Extension bill for a vote to the floor has had dire consequences on the lives of the long-term unemployed. Testimonies during Witness Wednesdays on Capitol Hill illustrate how the House GOP leaders have contributed to the increase in poverty instead of creating jobs. Americans have lost their homes, life savings, credit, and the resources to find work. Currently, there are over 280, 000 unemployed veterans that have also lost their unemployment insurance lifeline. Of the 3.5 million unemployed Americans who have been looking for work for longer than 27 weeks, one in ten are veterans.

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Patricia Polizzi

Patricia Polizzi is the Political Staff Writer for Social Work Helper. She received her Bachelors of Social Work degree from Keuka College and currently focuses on advocacy for the elderly and disabled. View all posts by Patricia Polizzi

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