Duplication, Overlap, And Inefficiencies In Federal Welfare Programs (Part 1 of 2)

Duplication, Overlap, And Inefficiencies In Federal Welfare Programs (Part 1 of 2)

[Unofficial Transcript] [Mr. Jordan] I think we will go ahead and
get started. I might get finished with my opening statement. Hopefully, Ranking Member
Kucinich will be able to join us. Let me thank you all for coming to this hearing
on duplication, overlap and inefficiencies in the Federal welfare programs. I will start
with an opening statement and hopefully, Mr. Kucinich will be here. As I speak, he walks
in. It is great to have you with us. In March, the Government Accountability Office
released its first annual report on duplicative and fractured Federal spending. The report
estimated that conservatively, $100 billion could be saved each year by eliminating duplication,
overlap and fragmentation in numerous Federal programs. Congress considers the Federal budget on an
agency by agency or program by program basis. The GAO report was the first attempt at a
comprehensive view of Federal spending by function. Today, in what will likely be the first of
a series of hearings, the Subcommittee will begin taking a more focused look at GAO’s
findings, starting with the area of social welfare programs. Since Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty
in 1964, Americans have spent $16 trillion on welfare at the State and Federal level.
Under current Administration plans, $10 trillion more will be spent over the next decade. How
much of that spending will be wasted on duplicative programs, each with their own overhead, IT
budgets, bureaucracy and advertising budgets. How much of that spending will be wasted on
a program that fails to help the people it is designed to help, the targeted population
while a different program with an identical mission may be succeeding with less money. GAO found that the Federal Government spent
more than $90 billion on 18 different domestic food and nutrition assistance programs, more
than $18 billion on 47 different programs providing employment and training and $3 billion
on 20 different homelessness programs. The Federal Government also currently funds 80
programs in 8 different agencies to provide transportation services to “transportation
disadvantaged persons.’‘ While GAO was unable to figure out exactly
how much these 80 programs cost the American taxpayers, it was able to determine that a
small subset of them totaled $2 billion annually. GAO has also concluded that not enough is
known about the effectiveness of many of these programs. For example, they found that only 7 of 18
Federal food assistance programs had been associated with positive health and nutrition
outcomes, while the remaining 11 have not been effective. The President signaled his
intent to address Federal program duplication in his State of the Union Address where he
stated “We shouldn’t just give our people a government that is more affordable, we should
give them a government that is more competent and more efficient.’‘ The American people
would certainly agree with that. Two weeks later, the President addressed the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce reiterating his plan to address duplicative programs, “So, in
the coming months, my Administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate and
reorganize the Federal Government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive
America.’‘ I hope the Administration is serious about duplication and waste. More than a month ago, I invited the White
House Office of Management and Budget to participate in today’s hearing. Unfortunately, as was
the case with the previous full committee hearing on GAO’s duplicative programs report,
the White House of Management and Budget has refused to engage with this committee on meaningful
oversight of wasteful Federal spending. I think it is amazing, the Office of Management
and Budget refuses to come talk to this committee about the management of the 70-some different
means-tested social welfare programs. The American taxpayers deserve better than
our current system provides. They deserve a budget system in which all programs providing
in aid can be viewed in full, easily tracked and evaluated for effectiveness and efficiency.
They deserve a welfare system whose goals actually help people quickly reach the point
where they no longer need it and provide for themselves, one in which multiple departments
and multiple agencies manage programs that waste money through overlap and inefficiency. I appreciate the willingness of our witnesses
to join us today for what I think is a very important hearing in these crucial fiscal
times when we are trying to help the very people in this tough economy who want to be
helped. With that, I will yield to my good friend,
the Ranking Member, Mr. Kucinich. [Mr. Kucinich] Mr. Chairman, thank you very
much for calling this hearing. I want to thank the witnesses for their presence. Today’s hearing addresses a recently issued
Government Accountability Office report that focused on duplicative Federal programs and
highlighted opportunities to potentially enhance Federal revenues by reducing inefficiencies
and overlap. In a 339-page report, GAO devoted just 18 pages to addressing opportunities
that may exist for reducing costs and improving efficiencies of certain Federal programs,
most notably food assistance programs and job training programs. In both the continuing
resolution votes as well as other budget proposals, these programs, in particular, were targeted
for severe cuts. GAO’s findings are valuable as long as they
are not misunderstood. GAO recommended streamlining, the administration of multiple programs delivering
comparable benefits to similar, overlapping populations. Reducing administrative inefficiencies
in Federal welfare programs is an important goal that we should work together to address,
but GAO did not find waste, fraud or abuse in administration and delivery of these programs.
GAO does not recommend delivering fewer benefits to those in need. In the aftermath of the most economically
destructive recession since the Great Depression, poverty has been on the rise. According to
the Food Research and Action Center, nearly 1 in 5 Americans struggled to afford enough
food for themselves and their families in 2010. In Ohio, my home State, there were 1.7
million people living in poverty in 2009, many remaining in poverty even though they
work full time year round. As Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Executive Director
of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, who is testifying before us today,
will confirm, in the State of Ohio the level of food insecurity is greater than 13 percent,
the highest level in a generation. This statistic alone shows how dire the need is and how critical
Federal food assistance programs are in Ohio and nationwide. Our economy is showing positive
signs of improvement but unemployment is still at 9 percent. It is certainly no time to be
pulling the plug on food assistance programs. Mr. Chairman, I had a visit from Ms. Hamler-Fugitt
and she gave me these plates which are filled out by people who are participating in one
of the food programs. In my remaining time, I just want to give these individuals for
their voice to be heard. “To whom it may concern, the Hunger Center
to me is like a Godsend. Without the Food Center, I don’t know how I would survive
every month. Food stamps don’t make it each month. Thank you for your support.’‘ Another one says, “I would like thank God
for Avon Baptist Church. God is good and I am thankful for Avon Baptist Church helping
me and my grandchildren at a time of need.’‘ “The Food Center has been so good to me
and my family and my grandchildren. Time is hard and I thank God for the Center.’‘
“The Food Pantry helped me and my kids have food and some days I don’t know what me
and my kids would have done without the Center. The Center really helps people and their kids.’‘ Again, this is about the Avon Baptist Church.
“The Food Bank has been an enormous helping hand to my family and I greatly appreciate
the three course meals that lasts us all month. It is only by the grace of God that my family
and I have been fed when we have no money at all. The volunteers at the Food Bank have
helped this community the best way they can and they will be blessed. Thank you.’‘ “Thank you, Avon for providing nutrition
for my family. May God continue to bless you. Through the hard times, I am able to get food
and clothing here at Avon and also smiles with good people who really care. I don’t
know what I would do without their help. God bless’‘ and finally, “Helped me to feed
my family, great help to make it through the month. They give good food that you can make
meals.’‘ Mr. Chairman, I would ask, with your indulgence,
if I could put this into the record, signed by people, and maybe it could be transcribed
so that these voices of people who are affected by this program have a chance to be heard. [Mr. Jordan] Certainly. Without objection. [Mr. Kucinich] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I
really appreciate that. [Mr. Jordan] I just want to echo too that
I have had the opportunity to visit one of the Second Harvest Food Bank centers and do
appreciate the work they do. The whole focus of this hearing is to look to do things more
efficiently and more effectively to help the very people you were just quoting. [Mr. Kucinich] If I can, Mr. Chairman, I have
tremendous confidence in your compassion and your quality of heart and I just wanted to
make sure that while we were here discussing this, that these individuals had a chance
to be heard. [Mr. Jordan] Mr. Cummings, I am going to recognize
Ms. Buerkle for a quick statement and then we will go to you and hopefully we can get
in our witness testimony before we have to run to vote. [Ms. Buerkle] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank
you for calling this hearing today. When the GAO published its report in March
on duplication in government services, I was very concerned that we were wasting taxpayer
dollars, so I am glad that the committee is digging into these issues. I think we walk
a fine balance. There is no one who doesn’t understand the need for these services, but
we owe it to the American people to make sure there is an effective and efficient use of
those dollars we are using for the programs. The report covered a very broad range of programs,
so we are going to focus on some of those today. That report stated that the Federal Government
spent over $62 billion on 18 different domestic food and nutrition programs for low income
individuals in fiscal year 2008. The GAO report stated these programs showed signs of overlap
and inefficient use of resources. It also mentioned we fund 47 different programs across
multiple agencies to provide employment and training service to help the unemployed get
jobs. With trillion dollar deficits, we cannot let
this continue. We need to find the programs that work so that they work efficiently, effectively
and reach the people who need their help. We need to end this duplication and waste
and find ways to get people into private sector jobs which really gives people back their
dignity. I look forward to the opportunity of hearing
from all of our witnesses today. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back. [Mr. Jordan] I thank the gentlelady from New
York. I now recognize the gentleman from Maryland. [Mr. Cummings] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I
appreciate your courtesy. In February, the Government Accountability
Office issued a 339-page report on potential duplication in Federal programs. They described
areas of overlap in several major programs including Defense, Agriculture, Energy and
Homeland Security. The Majority decided to focus today’s hearing on a tiny subset of
these programs that help some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society,
those in need of food, housing, transportation and job training. The Majority is targeting these same programs
for significant cuts in their 2012 budget proposals. The Center on Budget and Policy
estimates that two-thirds of the Republican budget’s programmatic spending cuts are
to programs that serve people of limited means. That is $2.9 trillion of a total of $4.3 trillion. The fact that low income assistance is being
targeted in this way is especially troubling given the Republican ultimatum last year to
force the extension of all President Bush’s tax cuts for the Nation’s wealthiest individuals.
It is even more troubling in light of their recent efforts to protect lucrative tax breaks
for oil companies making record profits. Americans across the country are struggling
to overcome the impact of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. According
to an October 2010 report issued by the Congressional Research Service, 3.7 million more people
fell below the poverty line in 2009 compared to 2008. These 3.7 million people were pushed
into poverty by a recession they did not create. In 2009, a total of 43.6 million people had
incomes below the poverty line here in America, more than at any time since we began tracking
this measure in 1959. The increase in poverty in America has been
accompanied by increased hunger. In fact, in its report in February, the GAO found that
in 2008, nearly 17 million households experienced insecurity in food, meaning they had limited
access to food during some part of the year. In my hometown of Baltimore, 40 miles from
here, 13.3 percent of families with children fall into this unfortunate category. These
are horrible statistics, but they are the benchmarks against which we measure our success
as a society. I believe with all my heart that our Nation
is better than this. We can do better and we must do better. Of course we must strive
to eliminate unnecessary duplication and streamline the delivery of benefits. There is no one
on this side of the aisle or the other side of the aisle who would disagree with that. I hope the Republican idea of duplicative
food assistance programs is not breakfast, lunch and dinner. We must be clear about our
priorities, insuring that every hungry child is adequately fed, that every sick person
has access to medical care, and that every family has a safe place to live. This is the
American way. These efforts not only help our fellow Americans
get back on their feet, but they insure that our next generation is ready to compete and
succeed. The future of our country is in their hands. Mr. Chairman, protecting the poor should
not be a partisan issue. In his most recent State of the Union Address, President Obama
called for an end to unnecessary duplication in government programs. I wholeheartedly agree
with that. He also established an initiative called Government
Reform for Competitiveness and Innovation and he included several program cuts in his
budget to help eliminate waste. I applaud the President’s leadership and I strongly
support steps to help streamline government and make it more effective and efficient for
the American people. I hope we can work together in a bi-partisan
way to improve rather than eliminate services to those struggling to meet the most basic
needs of life. With that, Mr. Chairman, again, I thank you
for your courtesy and I yield. [Mr. Jordan] Thank you. We will now have our witnesses proceed. First, we are pleased to have Ms. Patricia
Dalton, Chief Operating Officer of the Government Accountability Office. Thank you for your
good work on the report. We also have Mr. Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow, The
Heritage Foundation, and an expert on social welfare spending and reform. We have Mr. John
Mashburn, Executive Director, The Carleson Center for Public Policy. As my colleague
mentioned earlier, we have Ms. Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Executive Director from the Ohio Association
of Second Harvest Foodbanks. Pursuant to committee rule, all witnesses
must be sworn before they testify. Please rise and answer in the affirmative after I
read. Please raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony
you are about to give this committee will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing
but the truth? [Witnesses respond in the affirmative.] [Mr. Chaffetz] Let the record reflect that
the witnesses answered in the affirmative. We will now go right down the row. We allow
five minutes. You get the yellow light when it is time to
start getting ready to finish. Ms. Dalton, you are recognized. [Ms. Dalton] Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking
Member Kucinich, and Ms. Buerkle. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss GAO’s first
annual report on duplication in the Federal Government. Our report listed 34 areas where there is
potential overlap, fragmentation or duplication. Overlap and fragmentation can be harbingers
of unnecessary duplication. We also identified in the report 47 other areas of potential
cost savings or revenue enhancement. Reducing or eliminating government duplication, overlap
and fragmentation could potentially save billions of tax dollars annually and help agencies
provide more efficient and effective services. The current situation of multiple and overlapping
programs evolved over decades. Difficult decisions and sustained attention by the Administration
and the Congress will be required to determine what programs are needed now. This will be
complicated by the fact that data showing the effectiveness or lack thereof in current
programs is often nonexistent or insufficient. In addition, in some cases, we don’t know
exactly what we are spending. Today, I will focus on four areas in our report of programs
that provide assistance with food, employment and training, homelessness and transportation. First, the Federal Government spends more
than $90 billion on domestic food assistance provided primarily through 18 different Federal
programs. The Departments of Agriculture, HHS, Homeland Security and multiple State
and local governments work to administer a complex network of programs. Some of these programs provide similar services
to the same population. For example, six different USDA programs provide food to eligible children
in settings outside their homes such as schools, day care and summer camps. While having multiple
programs helps ensure that those in need have access to food, it also increases administrative
costs. Complicating any decisions about streamlining food assistance programs is the fact that
little is known about the effectiveness of 11 of the 18 programs. In fiscal year 2009, 47 programs spent about
$18 billion on employment and training services. Of these 47, 44 overlap with at least one
other program in that they provided at least one similar service to a similar population.
For example, three of the largest programs provide job search assistance. Nearly all
programs track outcome information but only 5 of the 47 GAO identified have conducted
an impact study to determine whether the program is actually responsible for improved employment
outcomes. GAO has previously recommended to Labor and
HHS that those agencies work together to develop and disseminate information that could inform
State efforts to increase administrative efficiencies and examine the incentives for States and
localities to undertake such efforts. In 2009, Federal agencies spent about $2.9
billion on over 20 programs targeted to address the various needs of persons experiencing
homelessness. In some cases, different agencies may be offering similar types of services
to similar populations. For example, at least seven Federal agencies administer programs
to provide some type of shelter or housing assistance to persons experiencing homelessness.
This fragmentation can create difficulties for people accessing services and administrative
burdens for providers who must navigate various application requirements, selection criteria
and reporting requirements. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
has provided a renewed focus on coordinating efforts and recently developed a strategic
plan for agencies involved in the fight to end homelessness. However, once again decisions
on how to reduce its fragmentation and overlap could be hindered due to lack of comprehensive
data. It is exacerbated by a lack of consistent definition. Finally, GAO identified 80 existing Federal
programs across 8 Federal departments that provide funding for transportation services
for those who are transportation disadvantaged. An example of the impact of fragmentation
in this area is the Departments of Agriculture and Labor both fund programs that provide
transportation for low income use seeking employment or job training. As in other areas I have discussed today,
some actions are underway. For example, the Interagency Transportation Coordinating Council
on Access and Mobility has taken steps to encourage and facilitate coordination across
agencies but more is needed. In conclusion, opportunities exist to streamline
and more efficiently carry out programs in those four areas. Careful, thoughtful analysis
will be needed to address some of the issues discussed in our March report and having comprehensive
information on the programs involved would help facilitate that decision-making. In our future reports, GAO will follow up
on these areas as well as examine other areas in the government for potential duplication.
We also have in-depth work ongoing in several selected areas. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. That completes my
prepared statement and I would be happy to take any questions. [Mr. Jordan] Thank you so much. We will move next to Mr. Rector. [Mr. Rector] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am here today to talk about means-tested
welfare assistance, which means programs that are targeted to core and low income individuals
providing cash, food, housing, medical care and social services. For example, food stamps
is a means-tested program, social security is not. The big secret here is that the Federal Government
runs over 69 major means-tested assistance programs. The problem isn’t so much duplication,
but the fact there are so many programs, no one in this city has any clue how much money
you are spending on the poor, absolutely no clue whatsoever. When you look at the welfare state, it is
as if you have a jigsaw puzzle with 69 different pieces. The way Congress operated was to look
at one piece at a time and only one piece and then pretend that piece and that piece
alone was the only thing standing between poor people and starvation. It automatically
results in a massive over expenditure. Imagine if you ran your family budget that way, you
never added anything up. You just looked at each component, one at a time. That is the
way we run the welfare state. In fiscal year 2011, total spending on these
69 programs was $940 billion, 75 percent of that was Federal spending, 25 percent was
State spending, mainly State contributions required into Medicaid. Combined Federal and State means-tested spending
is now the second largest category in government spending overall in the Nation. It is exceeded
only by Social Security and Medicare. It exceeds the cost of public education. Let me repeat
that. It exceeds the cost of public education and it dwarfs the cost of national defense. In the two decades before the current recession,
means-tested welfare was the fastest growing component of government spending. We never
heard that in the Washington Post. It grew more rapidly than Social Security and Medicare
and the rate of increase dwarfed that of public education and national defense. Despite the fact that means-tested welfare
was at record levels when he took office, President Obama has increased this spending
by a third, but this is a permanent, not a temporary, increase in spending. According
to Obama’s spending plans, means-tested welfare will not decline as the recession
ends but will continue to grow rapidly for the next decade and will soon be over $1 trillion
a year. He plans to spend $10 trillion over the next decade at least. About half of this $950 billion goes to low
income families with children. That is about $470 billion a year. If that amount of money
were divided evenly among the lowest income, one-third of all families and children, which
is about 15 million families, that comes to around $30,000 per family. The amount of money
being put out there simply dwarfs one’s understanding. To look at these programs one
at a time completely misrepresents the type of assistance. There is virtually no family
out there that only gets aid from one program. They get aid from many different programs. The means-tested welfare system is a vast,
hidden welfare state about which the public and legislators know virtually nothing. You
can’t debate it or make rational decisions solely on a piecemeal basis. You have to look
at the aggregate spending. I would also say simply the United States
cannot afford to spend over $1 trillion a year on low income individuals, money which
we will mainly borrow from the Chinese. We have to get this spending under some type
of reasonable constraint. If we have to continue to spend, we certainly want to assist the
poor but we have to have some reasonable constraint. I would propose that we take this aggregate
spending and when the recession ends, we should roll that spending back to the pre-recession
level which was already a record level, already beyond anyone’s understanding and then allow
it to grow at inflation for the foreseeable future. That would be a reasonable compromise
that would help us deal with our debt and our deficit but would continue to provide
very generous assistance to low income persons. Finally, I would say the biggest problem with
these programs is not that they are inefficient, but that they generate poverty themselves.
Every one of these programs will reward people for not working and it rewards people for
not marrying and those are the two principle causes of child poverty. These programs generate
need for themselves. The more money you put into them, the more people in need of aid
you create and therefore, the more need for future spending you create. We need a welfare system that changes those
incentives and encourages individuals to work and become self sufficient and certainly encourages
marriage rather than penalizes it. That is what Lyndon Johnson said when he launched
the War on Poverty. He said, “I don’t want to put people on the dole, I don’t
want to put people on government assistance. I want them to become prosperous and self
sufficient. That is what we need to do.’‘ Thank you. [Mr. Jordan] Thank you. Appreciate that good
testimony. Mr. Mashburn. [Mr. Mashburn] As GAO points out in this report,
in light of the Nation’s fiscal outlook, there is widespread agreement that we need
to look at not just near term steps, but at the long term fiscal sustainability of government
fiscal policy and government programs. However, it should be pointed out that this just the
latest in a long series of studies and reports over the past three decades regarding the
need to reform and streamline the Federal Government programs to make them more efficient
and responsive. While a lot of the duplication and overlap
exists at the Federal level, the multitude of Federal programs serving similar populations
are usually administered by a small handful of agencies at the State level such as welfare,
human services agencies or State workforce agencies. Much like the GAO report before us, Congress
in the late 1980s was confronted with the recommendations of the so-called Grace Commission
which President Reagan had established by Executive Order in 1982. The survey was conducted
by over 2,000 private sector executives, managers, experts and special consultants broken up
into 36 task forces who submitted a 47 volume report with a two volume summary and made
2,478 recommendations. Presidents Reagan and Bush implemented those they could administratively
via the Executive Branch but Congress essentially ignored those requiring legislative action,
the ones that would have saved the most dollars. The Clinton Administration followed up with
a National Performance Review in 1993 which offered approximately 380 major recommendations.
Again, the Clinton Administration implemented those that it could administratively in the
Executive Branch but Congress generally failed to implement those that had to be done legislatively. OMB then in 2004 under George W. Bush’s
Administration, then implemented the Program Assessment Rating Tool, PART, to rate all
Federal programs on their effectiveness, in an effort to ensure Federal programs were
accountable and achieved the results for which they had originally been established. PART evaluations then served as the basis
for the Bush Administration recommendations for eliminating or cutting 150 programs. Again,
implemented or passed legislation to adopt very few of those recommendations. In short, the Executive Branch for three decades
under both Republican and Democratic Presidents have identified Federal programs, including
welfare programs, that should be cut, eliminated or reformed. Congress, however, has failed
to act on the vast majority of the recommendations. Hopefully, this hearing marks a different
juncture in history. As we look at the latest recommendations for
eliminating wasteful, overlapping and inefficient government as part of Federal programs, or
as GAO emphemistically puts it, “creating efficiencies that could put these agencies
in a position to better assist program participants while deceasing administrative burdens,’‘
we should keep in mind Ronald Reagan’s overarching principle as he grappled with the problems
of welfare reform in California in 1968. “Welfare needs a purpose: to provide for
the needy, of course, but more than, to salvage these, our fellow citizens, to make them self
sustaining and as quickly as possible, independent of welfare. We should measure welfare’s
success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.’‘ When Ronald Reagan testified several years
later as Governor before the Senate Finance Committee in February, 1972, he said out several
tenets he believed were necessary for welfare reform to succeed. They were: Given broad
authority to utilize administrative and policy discretion, the States are better equipped
than the Federal Government to administer effective welfare programs; a system, whatever
it may be called, would not be an effective reform of welfare, but would tend to create
an even greater human problem; a limit should be set on the gross income that a family would
receive and still remain eligible for welfare benefits; for all those who are employable,
a requirement be adopted that work in the community be performed as a condition of eligibility
for welfare benefits without additional compensation; and the greatest single problem in welfare
today is the breakdown of family responsibility and strong provisions should be made to insure
maximum support from responsible parents. The TANF block grant for welfare cash assistance
was based on these principles and is one of Reagan’s greatest legacies. The now undisputed
success of the TANF block grant is a testament to the leadership of President Reagan and
Bob Carleson, for whom the Carleson Center is named, who was Reagan’s welfare policy
adviser both when he was Governor and when he was President and Carleson continued his
efforts towards block granting welfare even after Reagan left office. Under Reagan’s vision, welfare reform is
not just about saving taxpayers’ money, but moving beneficiaries from dependence to
independence as was often said during debate on passage of the 1996 welfare reform law. As Reagan was quoted during an address to
the International Committee for the Supreme Soviet, USSR, September 17, 1990, “We have
found in our country that when people have the right to make decisions as close to home
as possible, they usually make the right decisions.’‘ I would note that was before the Soviets. [Mr. Jordan] Thank you, Mr. Mashburn. They have just called votes but we want to
hear from Ms. Hamler-Fugitt and then we will recess and come back for questions. [Ms. Hamler-Fugitt] Good afternoon, Chairman
Jordan, Ranking Member Kucinich and distinguished members of the committee. I would like to
thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I represent the Ohio Association of Second
Harvest Foodbanks, Ohio’s largest charitable response to hunger. We provide food, funding,
training, technical assistance and Ohio Benefit Bank services to a network of 3,000 food pantries,
soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Eighty percent of our charities are faith-based,
volunteer-driven, operating on budgets of less than $25,000 a year. Half of all the
food we distribute comes as a result of Federal and State funding. Over the last decade, the number of Ohioans
in poverty has grown by a staggering 46 percent and the effects of the great recession are
still with us: deeper poverty, lower fixed incomes, minimum wages, part-time employment
and many are suffering from long term unemployment. In the last quarter of 2010, our charities
served nearly 2.1 million Ohioans and half of those we served were children and the elderly,
yet every day more hungry Ohioans are standing in our lines and their limited budgets are
now being further shattered by rapidly rising food and fuel costs. It is bad out there.
Those who were already hanging by their fingertips are now falling into the abyss and the organizations
that we serve are begging for crumbs and praying for a miracle. Mr. Chairman, the GAO produced a very balanced
report and I support many of its findings, but there are some real world realities to
these findings that must be highlighted. One, program overlap does not always mean duplication.
Some of these critical programs already have fixed funding, eligibility and enrollment
caps and cannot respond to increased need, particularly in a weak economy. Many families
who struggle with hungry are not poor enough to qualify for support. The consequences of
increasing hunger and malnutrition are severe, including lowered productivity, educational
achievement and astronomical health care costs. SNAP, the largest USDA program, served nearly
42 million Americans. One in seven Americans received food stamps in February. It has the
lowest eligibility of all Federal nutrition programs and the maximum benefits lasts less
than two and a half weeks out of every month. The GAO reports describes the Commodity Supplemental
Food Program as one of the duplicative programs citing that many seniors eligible for this
program are also eligible for SNAP, yet seniors with limited mobility and transportation barriers
may not be able to purchase food at a grocery store and therefore, benefit from both a box
of food provided through the Emergency Assistance Program and CSFP as well as home-delivered
meals. In Ohio, a fortunate 20,463 seniors receive
a 40 pound box of government food valued at $18.77 a month. The waiting list for this
program is long and many of our food banks report that seniors in their communities call
and ask for the CSFP box of a recipient that they know has gone into a nursing home or
worse yet, other non-participating seniors will read the obituaries and if they see the
name of someone they know who has received CSFP, they ask if they can receive the deceased
recipient’s box of food. This is hardly a case of people getting too many benefits.
Rather, it shows people do not have enough to eat. Another example of the real world reality
of vulnerable Ohioans is that one out of every two babies born in Ohio is potentially eligible
for WIC, a modest supplemental program like SNAP, it is not intended to meet the participants’
entire nutritional needs. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Cincinnati
Children’s Hospital found that 65 percent of the families reported they had run out
of formula and did not have money to buy more and 39 percent of the families studied were
already on WIC and SNAP, yet were at risk of hunger. All too often these programs do not always
reach the poor because of rules and requirements that are confusing, requiring families in
need to produce multiple documents and verifications many times at multiple agencies, using precious
time and gas money, traveling and sitting in waiting rooms of agencies that would be
better spent keeping a job and finding a new one and it does not make sense for people
with limited mobility. We agree with GAO that programs are decentralized,
lack coordination and data sharing, all of which are required to improve efficiencies
and effectiveness. I would like to briefly share our association’s experience in reducing
efficiencies and unnecessary overlap while ensuring that people receive access to benefits. Our association met this challenge head on.
We implemented the Ohio Benefit Bank and Internet-Based Application Assistance Program which streamlines
program access and reduces barriers by providing a single application platform of more than
20 programs. We have joined together nine State agencies and four Federal agencies and
have leveraged public and private resources establishing yes, over 1,100 not-for-profit
and faith-based and community partners and recruited some 4,300 counselors reaching people
where they work, live, play and pray. Again, we believe that in order to prevent
duplicative efforts in costs, investments are needed to upgrade and integrate systems
used to determine and maintain eligibility across all health and human service lines. Again, I thank you for the opportunity and
would be pleased to answer any questions you may have. [Mr. Jordan] Let me thank all our witnesses. We will be back in probably 25 minutes. There
are nine minutes left in this vote, so we have to go vote. I appreciate your patience. We stand in recess. [Recess.]

One thought on “Duplication, Overlap, And Inefficiencies In Federal Welfare Programs (Part 1 of 2)

  1. At 14:20, cummings says making sure every hungry child is fed, every sick person has medical care and every family has a safe place to live is the American Way. That is NOT the American Way. getting people Jobs is the American way. The safety net is for exceptions.

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