House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan proposed sweeping changes to America’s safety net Thursday that would combine up to 11 federal welfare programs into a single funding stream to states.
The plan, which he called “Opportunity Grants,” would allow states to join a pilot program to experiment with unique ways to deliver aid such as food stamps, housing assistance, child care, cash welfare — replacing Washington’s bureaucratic and one-size-fits-all formulas that have failed to lift American’s out of poverty.
Mr. Ryan said that replacing the United States’ broken safety net would go a long way toward repairing the economy.
“We spend almost $800 billion on 92 federal programs each year to fight poverty. And yet the poverty rate is the highest in a generation. Deep poverty is near record highs,” Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute.
“When you take a step back and look at all this, you just have to think, ‘We can do better,’ ” he said.
The proposals from Mr. Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee who is eyeing a 2016 White House run, likely will become the centerpiece of the GOP’s economic reform agenda.
Under the proposal, states would be able to design their own safety net programs, receiving funding once the plan wins federal approval, then the results would be studied.
Mr. Ryan said the Opportunity Grant, which would funnel more than $100 billion to states each year, would provide “more flexibility in exchange for more accountability.”
“This new, simpler stream of funding would become the Opportunity Grant, and it would be budget neutral. The state would get the same amount of money as under current law—not a penny less,” he said.
He outlined the plans in a 73-page document titled “Expanding Opportunity in America.”
Beyond revamping the safety net, the proposals tackled reforms to the Earned Income Tax Credit, education, criminal justice and federal regulations.