Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Anti-Poverty Leaders Respond to Rep. Paul Ryan’s New Poverty Proposals
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Today, several anti-poverty leaders and low-income people—including Tom Colicchio, chef and food activist; Melissa Boteach, Vice President of the Poverty to Prosperity Program and Half in Ten Education Fund at the Center for American Progress; and Tianna Gaines-Turner, member of Witnesses to Hunger—took to to respond to the poverty proposal unveiled Thursday by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Melissa Boteach, Vice President of the Poverty to Prosperity Program and Half in Ten Education Fund at the Center for American Progress, explains:

Yesterday, Rep. Ryan proposed a plan that would eliminate a program that consolidates multiple antipoverty programs into a single grant to states in the name of providing greater flexibility. Yep, you read that right. While the press coverage has focused on Rep. Ryan’s “new” idea of consolidating multiple programs into a single “Opportunity Grant,” most of the coverage missed the fact that he proposed to pay for part of his plan by eliminating the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). [Read more]

Tom Colicchio, chef and food activist, writes:

Lumping nutrition assistance in with other much needed assistance—like housing and childcare—would make hunger worse. For one thing, it makes it much more difficult for our growing Food Movement to hold legislators accountable for their votes on food issues. If they vote to cut the block grant is the money cut from food or housing? And if we leave it to the whims of states to decide how much nutrition assistance people can receive, or whether they can receive it at all—as with TANF—then how will we ever resolve as a nation to end hunger? [Read more]

Laffon Brelland, Jr., a rising sophomore at the University of South Carolina, detailed his own experience with poverty:

My family does not struggle because we lack work ethic, which Paul Ryan’s new plan implies is the underlying cause of poverty in America. My family struggles because of poverty wages, which Ryan’s plan does nothing to rectify. Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was raised. My family and I work tirelessly, but until employers are required to pay us enough to thrive, my families and thousands like ours will continue to scrape by. [Read more]

Anne Ford, a school nurse in Washington, D.C., writes:

If Paul Ryan really wanted to help he should have proposed creating something, not messing up programs like food stamps that are already working well. He should have proposed to create jobs, or increase the supply of affordable housing. He should have put his energy into raising the wages at all these jobs that don’t pay enough to survive. The truth is if you don’t have a job that pays more than the cost of living, you can’t afford the necessities to live. And that’s how we ended up with all these people with nowhere to live who are fighting every minute to put food in their stomachs. [Read more]

Read other anti-poverty leaders’ and low-income people’s responses to Rep. Ryan’s plan.—a project of the Half in Ten Education Fund at the Center for American Progress—is an online hub dedicated to providing in-depth analysis and educational resources about poverty in America and what we can do at the local, state, and federal level to dramatically reduce it. Launched in May 2014, is also home to a cutting-edge blog highlighting the vibrant voices of the anti-poverty community—people living in poverty and working to reduce poverty every day.

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For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at or 202.478.5328.