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America’s Most Vulnerable Subject of House Committee

On October 28, the House Budget Committee held a hearing, “Restoring the Trust for America’s Most Vulnerable.”

Olivia Golden, executive director, Center for Law and Social Policy, stated, “Child care subsidies overwhelmingly have a pro-work effect, enabling large numbers of mothers to work and work more steadily. However, an individual mother could face a ‘benefit cliff’ where a promotion would take her out of the income range where she can get help based on a particular state’s policy decisions, even though she cannot yet pay for the full cost of child care. She faces a very tough choice that no parent should have to make, whether to take the promotion and hope that she can somehow find good quality care for her children, or to pass up the promotion and hope it is still available when her children are school-age. Ms. Golden continued, “In 2014, about three-quarters of single mothers were in the labor force compared to 68 percent of married mothers, and 57 percent of mothers of infants whether married or single. Given the many practical and financial challenges involved in working in a low-wage job while caring for a child as a single parent, the employment level for this population is frankly remarkable.”

Robert Doar, fellow, American Enterprise Institute, suggested: “Policymakers serious about fighting poverty and expanding opportunity must recognize the flaws in our current safety net and fight to improve each major program with an approach focused on the importance of work.” Mr. Doar continued, “The work-first approach of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) was central to the poverty reductions of the 1990s. However, after twenty years, there is a need for improvements that refocus the program on helping poor Americans find work. For instance, states should be forced to meet a real work participation rate that is not subject to state manipulation. ‘Excess Maintenance of Effort’ exemptions allow states to engage fewer recipients in work if the state spends more than is required. And some states provide very small benefits to workers in order to artificially boost their work engagement numbers. These loopholes should be closed…Also, incorporating outcome measures that track job placement and retention into state evaluations would keep states focused on what matters most: moving individuals into work.”

The following witnesses also testified:

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