Bipartisan Legislation Addresses Poverty in America and Increases Opportunities for Families; Investing in Children and Parents Concurrently Harnesses Family’s Full Potential and Promotes Economic Mobility
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act to increase opportunities for families living in poverty. The bipartisan bill aligns and links existing systems and funding streams to target both parents and children with support aimed at increasing economic security, educational success, social capital, and the health and wellbeing of whole families.
“Millions of American families are living below the poverty line, and the prolonged public health and economic crisis has exacerbated this problem. While federal programs have helped many of those living in poverty manage day-to-day hardships, they are falling short of breaking the cycle of poverty that has trapped too many families,” said Senator Collins. “Connecting various federal programs that target both parents and children with supports aimed at increasing economic security, educational success, social capital, and health and wellbeing has the potential to lift whole families out of poverty. I urge my colleagues to support this innovative approach to moving families out of poverty by giving them the tools they need to succeed.”
The Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act is the product of a multi-year collaborative effort to balance the interests and input of a broad array of stakeholders, including the Maine Community Action Partnership and the Maine Head Start Directors’ Association.
“Senator Collins has visited our agency on a number of occasions and heard directly from the families we serve about how the comprehensive services we offer, using the Two-Generation/Whole Family approach, are making a profound impact on moving families in our County and state to be more economically secure and self-sufficient,” said Jason Parent, Executive Director and CEO of Aroostook County Action Program. “She has also heard from our outstanding team members how challenging this work can be in terms of making it fit with program funders and government requirements about the specific use of federal funds. The Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act will help address these challenges and allow more of this work to flourish across Maine and nationally.”
“We know that families do best when many needs are met at once, when we attend to the entire family and hierarchy of needs, in the order requested, and for as long as they are needed. Our Community Action programs are centered around that –family first – and we wrap and tailor our services around the family, who drives the services to meet their needs,” said Donna Kelley, President of Maine Community Action Partnership and President and CEO of Waldo Community Action Partners. “We welcome the opportunity to do more impactful work with funding that is meant for this inclusive and family driven program, while also braiding other funds, as we do now, to meet community needs.”
“Knowing that this bill seeks to increase opportunities for families living in poverty through programs targeting both parents and children with support aimed at increasing economic security, educational success, social capital, and health and wellbeing, our association is in full support,” said Cristina Salois, Chair of Maine Head Start Directors Association. “The actions within this bill promote all aspects of the Head Start mission and we welcome this bill into legislative process.”
A previous version of Senators Collins and Heinrich’s legislation included two provisions that have since been signed into law. These provisions include a request for the Government Accountability Office to issue a report exploring the potential for two-generation pilots, collaboration areas, and federal funding opportunities, and a new program administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury to implement Social Impact Partnerships to improve the effectiveness of social services.
Specifically, the Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act would:
Coordinate Federal Efforts to Assist in the Development and Implementation of Two-Generation Programs
- Codify the Council on Economic Mobility at the Department of Health and Human Services to create a national focus on multigenerational poverty by facilitating coordinated efforts across multiple agencies and departments. This interagency collaboration will align and link fragmented systems and funding streams, resulting in holistic approaches that simultaneously address the needs of children and their parents or guardians. The Council brings together designees from multiple agencies and departments, including: Office of Management and Budget; Department of Agriculture; Department of Education; Department of Health and Human Services; Department of Housing and Urban Development; Department of Justice; Department of Labor; Department of Transportation; Department of the Treasury; Department of Veterans; Bureau of Indian Affairs; Corporation for National and Community Service; Domestic Policy Council; National Economic Council; Council on Economic Advisors; White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership; and Social Security Administration.
Increase Flexibility for States, Local Governments, and Tribes to Develop Programs That Best Meet Their Needs
- Two-Generation Performance Partnerships: Federal, state, and local governments will have the ability to test innovative ways of using federal resources by allowing increased flexibility in blending discretionary funds across multiple federal programs in exchange for greater accountability in achieving two-generation outcomes.
Increase Opportunities for Families in Need by Funding Projects that Work
Successful Two-Generation Programs have the potential to lift families out of poverty by using evidence-based strategies. Examples of this approach include:
- Extending the hours for career services and childhood development programs for students who have young children to better match parents’ schedules.
- Expanding home visiting programs to offer information on education, workforce training, and employment opportunities.
- Providing access for low-income students who have young children to career services and childhood development programs through their schools.
- Creating partnerships between private, state, and community colleges and universities with government and non-profit organizations to provide services for low-income students who have young children.
- Allowing programs such as Head Start and Early Head Start to partner with organizations that help the parents of low-income children to further their education and receive job training.