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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 and Promotes Economic Mobility

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) reintroduced 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.

“The economy is on the up and up again thanks to historic legislation like the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Right now is a key moment in our nation’s history where we can truly open the doors for all American families – especially in New Mexico – to escape poverty and access the economic opportunities that are popping up across the country,” said Heinrich. “In New Mexico, I’ve seen firsthand just how effective a two-generation approach can be. Just recently I met with local education leaders that are providing parents with childcare services so that parents can finish out their degrees. It’s this type of approach that makes financial security accessible for both parents and children simultaneously. I’m proud that Senator Collins has been by my side in this fight and look forward to the continued bipartisan momentum of this legislation.”

“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 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 Ascend at the Aspen Institute, Central New Mexico Community College, and New Mexico Voices for Children. The legislation is also supported by the Maine Community Action Partnership and the Maine Head Start Directors Association.

A previous version of Senators Heinrich and Collins’ 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, 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.

“The well-being of families is the strongest signal of the state of our country. Senator Heinrich's and Senator Collins' bi-partisan leadership on the Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act is a significant step toward making family prosperity a reality for all our families. Ascend at the Aspen Institute has been working closely with more than 450 organizations and our Ascend Fellows for a decade to spark and spread two-generation approaches in New Mexico, Maine, and communities across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. We have learned from the research and the lived experiences of families with low incomes that supporting children and their parents together simultaneously can make a tangible impact in creating a legacy of economic mobility and educational success that passes across generations.” said Anne Mosle, Vice President at the Aspen Institute and Executive Director of Ascend.

“The National Community Action Partnership (NCAP) strongly supports the Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act and thanks Senator Collins and Senator Heinrich for their tireless efforts to align funding to build social and economic mobility for families,” said Denise Harlow, NCAP Chief Executive Officer. “Community Action has centered its innovations inside of the needs of families and has used this expertise in Maine and across the United States deploying the Two Generation/Whole Family Approach. In this scenario, families and communities are positioned to live up to their fullest potential which benefits current and future generations.”

“On behalf of Central New Mexico Community College (CNM), we support and appreciate the goals of the Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act being proposed by Senator Martin Heinrich,” said Tracy Hartzler, President of Central New Mexico Community College. “In recent years, CNM has been focused on launching education programs and services that support the success of parents and their children. We have seen the promise of these multi-generational approaches, which can be very effective in putting low-income families on a trajectory for a more prosperous and healthier future. We are encouraged by this legislation and the potential it has to improve the wellbeing of families, which also benefits communities and economies.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

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.

A section-by-section of the bill is available here and a copy of the full bill text is available here.