Vote Notes: H.R.2824, Increasing Opportunity and Success for Children and Parents through Evidence-Based Home Visiting Act
Can I go back to another vote of this week?
I’ve long believed that much of our present welfare system produces unintended consequences and incentivizes the wrong things. For this reason, I actually voted for the last significant change to our welfare system. At that time, its changes were sweeping, and detractors would have made you think that Congress was trying to throw people into the streets with its enactment. That proved not to be the case, and for a while, the incentives for people to go back to work were meaningful and real. But over different administrations since that change occurred, they have been eroded and diluted.
For that reason, more reform is necessary on welfare. I say this in the broadest sense of the word because there is welfare to those that are needy, and there is also welfare to big corporations. Some parts of these programs needs to end; some parts need to be reformed.
We had a chance this week to reform a part of our present human welfare system, and I voted for it. It passed 214 to 209 and was called the Increasing Opportunity and Success for Children and Parents through Evidence-Based Home Visiting Act. It reauthorized an expiring program that was started by President George W. Bush. It aims to help at-risk pregnant women and young parents, and I voted in favor of the bill because this was our one chance to enact reforms to a measure that is certain to be reauthorized over on the Senate side.
The two reforms that this bill included that I believe made the vote worthwhile were the following:
One, it creates and refines an evidence-based framework for grant recipients. As noted in a recent post, there aren’t many things that are evidence-based in Washington funding. Tying money to outcomes that can be evidenced is something that makes common sense. In this case, the bill calls for monitoring and reporting on performance benchmarks in order to receive continued funding.
There are six specific benchmarks that must see improvement for continued funding. They include: improved maternal and newborn health, prevention of child injuries and abuse, improvements in school readiness and achievement, reduction in crime or domestic violence, improvements in family economic self-sufficiency, and improvements in the coordination of community resources.
This isn’t a perfect or complete list of outcomes, but actually digging in deeper to measure outcomes - and having the outcomes tied to grants - is a place that Washington ought to go much more strongly. It’s what we do in every other area of our lives, as we try and tie input with output.
The second reform that this bill included was a requirement for state matching funds. Previously, this program came as a simple grant. Apply for the money, get it and spend it. As a state, you wouldn’t care that much about outcomes because none of it was “your” money. With this bill, states and localities for the first time would have to put up matching money to draw down federal money. It’s funny how differently people treat money if they have skin in the game...and I thought that this was a meaningful reform step that would come with the bill we just passed.
Again, it’s not a perfect bill, but I think it’s a step in the right direction to improving welfare. Accordingly, I supported it.