DARKE COUNTY — The Darke County Chamber of Commerce has issued a resolution in support of a congressional proposal to help Americans in need.
The People-Centered Assistance Reform Effort Act, introduced by Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Troy), would “establish an independent commission to review all our nation’s means-tested welfare programs and formulate concrete solutions to reform them.”
The bill specifically directs the commission to consider reforms in light of three critical objectives as highlighted by Brookings Institution, which has identified three main ways to end poverty: encouraging employment, marriage and education.
Additionally, the bill requires the commission to align welfare programs by eliminating welfare cliffs and identifying changes that would empower caseworkers to have a holistic view of the person and all options to assist those in poverty on their path to economic security. The commission is also tasked with creating criteria to allow welfare programs to be evaluated.
If enacted, the legislation — House Resolution 841 — would not give the commission the power to eliminate or create new programs.
The chamber resolution states that 12.3 percent of Americans are living below the poverty line — the same percentage as in 1975. Deep poverty, those living below 50 percent of the poverty line, has increased since 1975. Far too many American families have been left behind because they do not have the tools to fully participate in and benefit from the economic opportunities created in the 21st century. When those who need help the most look for assistance, they face a bewildering scheme of 90 separate means-tested welfare programs, and most of these programs mask poverty without addressing its underlying causes.
The chamber said American safety net programs must serve as a ladder and a helping hand for those that need a second chance at achieving the American Dream. To accomplish this, anti-poverty measures must use a research-based approach that focuses on guiding families out of poverty instead of simply administering programs. Caseworkers should have access to tools and resources necessary to realize the mission of our safety net programs.
In addition to Chamber Chairman Perry Walls and Chamber President Sharon Deschambeau, other local officials have added their support to the measure.
“I support anything that can be done to reduce the ridiculous amount of paperwork that our caseworkers have to juggle while they are trying to help people. Washington needs to realize that we know best how to help the folks in our county get back to work,” Darke County Commissioner Mike Stegall said.
“The redundancy of federal programs is a disservice to caseworkers and the people we serve. Realigning programs would allow my office to efficiently address the needs of clients,” Darke County Jobs and Family Services Director Gracie Overholser said.