Senators Collins, Heinrich Reintroduce Legislation to Lift Families Out of Poverty

Upon introducing the Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act last year, Senator Collins explained how this legislation would help children like Arianna, a 5-year-old Maine girl who recently experienced homelessness

Washington, D.C. — Today U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) reintroduced the bipartisan Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act to give states, local governments, and tribes more flexibility to create partnerships that invest in families living in poverty. The 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.

“Just as a child’s ZIP code should not determine his or her future success, neither should bureaucratic inflexibility make it so difficult for families to get the help they need to escape intergenerational poverty,” said Senator Collins. “It has been more than 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson declared a ‘War on Poverty.’ Despite our good intentions and having spent trillions of dollars, we have made very limited progress in lifting families out of poverty. In Maine, the poverty rate stands at 13.4 percent, just slightly below the national rate. Our bill proposes a new approach to fighting poverty, one that focuses on addressing the needs of children and their parents together – two-generations – in order to help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.”

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 families, local service providers, and administrators. The two-generation approach is designed to create economic opportunities and address the needs of both vulnerable children and their parents.

Upon first introducing the Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act last year, Senator Collins referenced a Maine Sunday Telegram article that chronicled the story of Arianna, a five-year-old girl who lived in a makeshift tent outside of Portland. Thanks to the involvement of a state social worker and the Maine Homeless Veterans Alliance, who were committed to keeping the family together, Arianna's family now lives in an apartment in Auburn, where she is enrolled in kindergarten. These positive steps for Arianna’s family demonstrate the importance of a holistic approach to fighting poverty that Senators Collins and Heinrich’s legislation is designed to foster.

Specifically, the Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act would:

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.
  • Two-Generation Social Impact Bonds: A pilot program will incentivize public-private partnerships, increase funding for two-generation programs, and save the federal government money in the long run. Private investors will lend money to two-generation service providers. In turn, the providers are expected to meet certain measurable goal by a given date. If these goals are met, the government repays the initial investment. If the goals are not met, the government repays nothing.
  • Government Accounting Office Report on Block Grant Collaboration: The legislation also instructs the Government Accounting Office (GAO) to study and report to Congress and the Interagency Council on the barriers and opportunities for collaboration of federal block grant recipients. GAO will identify block grants available to support the two-generation approach and any federal impediments to collaboration among block-grant recipients.

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.

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

  • The Interagency Council on Multigenerational Poverty 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.

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