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Heinrich, Collins Introduce Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act

Bipartisan Legislation Addresses Poverty in America and Increases Opportunities for Families; Investing in Children and Parents Concurrently Harnesses Family's Full Potential

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the bipartisan Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act to increase opportunities for 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.

“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 Sen. Heinrich. “I’m proud to partner with my Republican colleague from Maine Senator Susan Collins 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.”

“More than 50 years after President Johnson declared a “War on Poverty,” millions of Americans still struggle to find the resources they need to meet the basic necessities of life. In Maine, the poverty rate stands at 13.4 percent, just slightly below the national rate,” said Sen. Collins. “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. It marks an important first step toward reevaluating our approach to poverty-reducing programs and encouraging innovative, more effective uses of taxpayer dollars.”

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, United Way of Santa Fe County, and New Mexico Voices for Children. Senator Heinrich has hosted a series of events across the New Mexico to bring together families, local service providers, and administrators to discuss a two-generation approach to creating economic opportunities and addressing the needs of both vulnerable children and their parents.

"All families want to thrive and reach their full potential. Unfortunately, far too many families face barriers and systems that work against them. We know that if we support families holistically and reduce the barriers they face both children and parents will be more successful. Senator Heinrich's and Senator Collins' bi-partisan leadership on the Two Generation Economic Empowerment Act is a positive and concrete step forward to ensuring that the American Dream of opportunity can pass from one generation to the next,” said Anne Mosle, Vice President, Policy Programs, the Aspen Institute and Executive Director, Ascend. "This effort builds on an exciting movement of innovation and collaboration bubbling up in communities and states across the country -- that is focusing on serving children and parents together and more effectively combining key services such as child care and work force."

"We applaud Senator Heinrich for his sponsorship of this important legislation and his continued support of New Mexico's families and children. We proudly join him in his efforts to increase family economic security, educational success, social capital and health and wellbeing,” said Katherine Freeman, President and CEO, United Way of Santa Fe County. “United Way of Santa Fe County has a longtime commitment to implementing two-generation strategies including providing the highest quality early education and care to children while at the same time providing caregivers with significant economic opportunities. We look forward to learning from the findings of the study required by this legislation, so that together we can all best serve children and families in New Mexico.”

“We’ve long believed that the best way to break the cycle of poverty and improve child and family well-being is with a two-generation approach. By applying the two-generation strategy, this bipartisan legislation would leverage existing state and federal programs and make them much more effective,” said James Jimenez, Executive Director, New Mexico Voices for Children. “Common sense solutions like better alignment of the hours that career services and child development programs are available to parents would make these programs work better for families and deliver more value for taxpayers. This bill could turn a disjointed system into a powerful force for significant and lasting change that would benefit the whole nation.”

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 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.
  • 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.

A fact sheet is available here and a copy of the bill is available here. Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #2Gen