Ryan on Poverty, Welfare Reform, and First-District Outreach
WASHINGTON, DC – Wisconsin’s First District Congressman Paul Ryan today spoke with WRJN’s Mike Clemens about his work on reducing poverty and upcoming welfare reforms, as well as tours around Wisconsin’s First District.
Excerpts of Ryan’s interview with WRJN follow.
On poverty and welfare reform:
“Yes, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; it’s basically what you think of as welfare. It is the program that was reformed in the late 90’s that now is coming up for renewal. And the idea back in the 90’s was, if you’re going to get welfare benefits, there’s a condition to it. That was what we call ‘welfare reform.’ And when that happened in 1996, it had enormous positive results. It was one of the greatest sources of the reduction of child poverty in a generation. It reduces child poverty rates precipitously; single moms went back to work and got out of poverty. We’ve had some backsliding since then.”
“We don’t want to have a situation where a person is faced with a decision: Do I take this job—which is risky, or maybe I don’t want to do it, or it takes me away from home—or do I keep the benefits? We don’t want to have that dynamic, because it pays not to work. And so, we want to fix the way these benefits work so it pays to work, so that it always makes sense to take that extra step, so that you’re always making more money for yourself and your family by taking a job.”
“And I also believe there are other groups out there, different charitable organizations, that have gotten so good at helping manage a person’s case, that we need to be able to customize the welfare benefits to a particular person’s needs, and we don’t do that right now. We treat everyone the same. It’s sort of cookie cutter, and you don’t get the kind of attention to the person fighting poverty that they really need. Some person might have an alcohol addiction problem. Some person might have a felony on their record, and they can’t get a job but they are trying to [make] ends meet, and they are trying to redeem themselves. Some people might have drug addiction. Some people might need some kind of transportation. Everybody has a different problem. And what we’ve learned is, if you can get these charities to work with these people—we call them wrap-around benefits—to sort of work on the entire person’s problem, and what they need to get to where they want to go in life—that kind of welfare customization is where we ought to go with how we fight poverty.”
“We have lots of charities that can do that: Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, America Works. And so, I want to involve the private-sector charitable organizations in the area of reforming welfare, helping getting people off of welfare into work.”
Reaching out to First District residents via office hours and business tours:
“I am doing office hours and business tours this week, so I’ve got a slate of office hours in Racine today with constituents coming in, just people who called to make an appointment who want to talk about different issues. But, one of the business tours I’m doing this week is the railroads. A lot of our rail needs to be upgraded. A lot of our rail needs to be expanded and freed up so that our manufacturers can get the products we make in Wisconsin to market.”