Members Cite ‘Confusing Polka Dot Graphic’ In Push To Consolidate Welfare Programs

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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Republicans pressed for reforms to coordinate welfare programs in an attempt to prevent waste and fraud during a House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee hearing Tuesday.

According to the Congressional Research Service, between state and federal funding, $1 trillion is spent on over 80 programs that were created to serve as a safety net for low-income families.

Chairman Charles Boustany cited a chart depicting the CRS’s data, saying the current system needs to be streamlined to promote upward mobility.

“What it shows is, in short, a mess. This system may have started out with good intentions, but it has become a confusing maze of programs that are overlapping, duplicative, poorly coordinated, and difficult to administer,” the Louisiana Republican in his opening statement. “I defy anyone to say this is the best way to address the human tragedy so many of our fellow citizens experience.”

Source: House Ways and Means Committee Staff, using Congressional Research Service reports and other data.

Source: House Ways and Means Committee Staff, using Congressional Research Service reports and other data.


Ranking member [crscore]Lloyd Doggett[/crscore], a Texas Democrat, said he agreed that there needs to be better coordination, but doesn’t think collapsing multiple programs into one is the right solution.

“The suggestion that Speaker [Paul] Ryan, in the days that I served with him in the Budget Committee, and in this committee, is that if we will block grant more monies to the states, we will get better results, we will end the confusing polka-dot graphic that we just saw and “the states can figure it all out” and everything will be better. Well, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program does not offer hopeful evidence that that will be the case,” the Texas Democrat said.

American Enterprise Institute fellow Maura Corrigan, who formerly served as a state-level administrator of many welfare programs, called for a consolidation of programs citing program overlap as a major problem.

“The 70 plus welfare programs that I oversaw were frustratingly siloed, so much so that I once told my children that I want my tombstone to say, ‘Tear down this silo,'” she said. “I am convinced that our programs could more effectively help more Americans move up were they coordinated more rationally.”

President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Robert Greenstein said while there may be room for improvement, welfare programs are more efficient than most think.

“Thousands of poor are trapped in program processes that were well intended, but either inefficient or now outdated,” said former committee chairman Geoff Davis. “Private sector companies often are not faced with some of the constraints that we find when reviewing the 80+ welfare programs in existence today, but I believe there are many lessons that we can learn from private sector efficiencies.”

Davis said streamlining data is the best first step toward a more efficient welfare system.

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