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Collins, Heinrich Introduce Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act

Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act, a bipartisan bill to increase opportunities for families living in poverty. The legislation 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.


 “More than 38 million people, or about one in eight Americans, lived below the poverty line in 2018.  This sadly includes nearly 13 million children, including 35,000 children in Maine.  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.  “Our bipartisan bill would support an innovative approach to fighting poverty, one that focuses on addressing the needs of children and their parents – two-generations together – in order to help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.” 


“While we've seen signs of economic recovery, far too many families in New Mexico and across the nation are still struggling to make ends meet and can’t escape multigenerational poverty,” said Senator Heinrich. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill to give states, local governments, and tribes more flexibility to develop innovative programs that really work to help families find a way out of poverty. Over the last year, I visited programs across New Mexico that are already using the two-generation approach and was able to hear firsthand how providing robust services for parents and their children simultaneously, allowed families to grow together and get on a more prosperous path. By helping families pursue their dreams together, we can make the Land of Enchantment a land of opportunity for everyone.”


“Maine’s Community Action Agencies are committed to the Two-Generation approach and are thankful to Senator Collins for her leadership in re-introducing the Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act,” said Jason Parent, president of the Maine Community Action Association, which is comprised of the state’s ten Community Action Agencies.  “Senator Collins has visited programs across Maine engaged in this work and is familiar with the many innovative Two-Gen strategies we have introduced in recent years.  She is also familiar with the challenges we face implementing this approach as federal funding streams are not conducive to addressing the needs of the Whole Family.  This bi-partisan legislation would address some of the bureaucratic obstacles that stand in the way of helping families go from crisis to thriving.”


“The language in the bill supports the flexibility that states and local partners would welcome in order to provide family-centered programming that impacts intergenerational poverty, ”said Bethany L. Hamm, Deputy Commissioner of Maine Department of Health and Human Services.


 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 Ascend at the Aspen Institute. The legislation is supported by the Maine Community Action Association and the Maine Head Start Directors Association.


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 (GAO) to issue a report exploring the potential for two-generation pilots, potential collaboration areas, and federal funding opportunities. The GAO request was passed as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2018 Omnibus. The other provision that is now law is a program to implement Social Impact Partnerships to improve the effectiveness of social services, which was passed as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act and is administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury


Specifically, the Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act would:


Coordinate Federal Efforts to Assist in the Development and Implementation of Two-Generation Programs


  • The Interagency Council on Multigenerational Poverty and Economic Mobility will 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 Labor; Department of Transportation; Department of the Treasury; Department of Veterans; Bureau of Indian Affairs; Corporation for National and Community Service; Domestic Policy Council; and National Economic Council.


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.


A fact sheet is available here and a copy of the bill is available here.