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Heinrich, Collins Introduce Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act To Address Poverty In America

Legislation will give states, local governments, and tribes more flexibility to create partnerships that invest in parents and children living in poverty.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) 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.

“This is the first major bipartisan bill in decades that has a real chance of fundamentally changing the way our states, communities, and local service providers help whole families overcome intergenerational poverty,” said Sen. Heinrich. “Over the last two years, I’ve visited programs across New Mexico that are already using the two generation approach and heard firsthand how providing robust services for parents and their children simultaneously allowed families to grow together and get on a more prosperous path. The two-generation approach at its core is about effective government--evidence-based, data driven bipartisan policy that works. I’m proud to continue advancing the Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act with Senator Collins to change the way our country addresses poverty and increase opportunities for families in New Mexico.”

“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 Sen. 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 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.

In January, Senator Heinrich headlined the Aspen Institute Forum on Children and Families in Washington D.C., that convened more than 150 leaders to discuss ideas for investing in the economic stability and educational success of families.

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.