The 11 Federal Low-Income Programs Paul Ryan Wants to Consolidate

A man blows cellulose insulation in the attic of a Colorado home as part of the Energy Department's Weatherization Assistance Program. A man blows cellulose insulation in the attic of a Colorado home as part of the Energy Department's Weatherization Assistance Program. Energy Department file photo

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on Thursday proposed consolidating 11 federal programs aimed at helping low-income Americans as part of his plan to combat poverty and increase upward mobility in this country. The possible 2016 presidential contender said combining such programs into an “Opportunity Grant” and providing states with more flexibility to tailor aid based on individual needs would improve the current fragmented and formulaic system of federal assistance.The idea would be to let states try different ways of providing aid and then to test the results—in short, more flexibility in exchange for more accountability,” Ryan said. The Wisconsin Republican said the plan would be voluntary for states and would not cut funding for the 11 programs. Democrats, however, expressed skepticism that the Ryan proposal would help low-income Americans, or avoid slashing funds from the programs slated for consolidation.

“The core idea of the Ryan proposal is not new,” said Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen, ranking member of the House Budget Committee. “It’s nothing more than a block grant gussied up with some bells and whistles.”

The programs Ryan targets for consolidation are managed by five different departments. In many cases, the programs comprise a large portion of the agencies’ annual budget. They are:

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Formerly known as the food stamp program. (Agriculture Department)  
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: Provides temporary financial assistance for pregnant women and families with one or more dependent children. (Health and Human Services Department)
  • Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program: Provides vouchers for very low-income families, the elderly and disabled to obtain affordable housing not limited to public housing projects. (Housing and Urban Development Department)
  • Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance Payments: Provides housing subsidies for low-income people in rural areas. (Agriculture)
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance: Provides rental subsidies for eligible tenant families (including single persons) residing in newly constructed, rehabilitated and existing rental and cooperative apartment projects. (HUD) 
  • Public Housing Capital and Operating Funds: Allocates funds to public housing authorities for operating and maintaining public housing projects for low-income renters across the country. (HUD)
  • Child Care and Development Fund: Assists low-income families in obtaining child care so they can work, or attend training or education. (HHS)
  • The Weatherization Assistance Program: Provides grants to states, territories and some Indian tribes to improve the energy efficiency of the homes of low-income families. (Energy Department)
  • The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program: Aids low-income families with energy costs. (HHS)
  • Community Development Block Grant: Allocates grants to states and localities for various community needs ranging from affordable housing to revitalizing neighborhoods and promoting economic growth. (HUD)
  • Workforce Investment Act—Dislocated Workers Program: Helps eligible individuals find jobs through training and career counseling services. (Labor Department)

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