In July 2013 State Representative Dave Reed (R-Indiana) set out to travel the state and learn more about poverty as a part of what he’s called “Empowering Opportunities: Gateways Out of Poverty.” Ten months later, Reed has issued his preliminary report on poverty in the commonwealth.
Reed, who chairs the House Majority Policy Committee, conducted his evaluation through hearings, roundtable discussions, and tours in rural, suburban, and urban parts of the state.
Reed says that there is one common factor.
“Employment, each of these barriers was either a barrier towards somebody gaining employment and gaining self-sufficiency, or a barrier that was a result of somebody losing employment.”
According to the Department of Welfare’s website, there are 1.8 million Pennsylvanian’s receiving SNAP food benefits and 191,058 receive TANF federal cash assistance for indigent families with dependent children
According to Reed, government programs aren’t effective, even when the numbers say they are.
“If it’s the same folks month, after month, after month, year after year, coming back for the same need that is not a successful program,” said Reed, “a more successful model focuses on a transformational approach to our anti-poverty efforts where we address the short term need but then we put together a plan to ensure that need does not arise again in the future.”
The report outlines five recommendations for lawmakers to consider when crafting future legislation: gauging success of a program on results instead of participation; teaching greater financial literacy and budgeting; creating benefits that work instead of fostering government dependence; providing essential needs such as food, water, and clothing; and stronger education at all levels.
Reed says the report began because poverty in America is alarming.
“When you looked at poverty in America and you realized here we are the wealthiest most developed nation in the history of the free world, but yet in the year 2014 we have 46 million of our citizens living in poverty,” said Reed.
According to the report, nearly 12.5 percent - approximately 1.5 million - of Pennsylvanian’s live in poverty.