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Category Archives: Ending Poverty

Work requirement and the “Safety Net.”

President Donald Trump signed an executive order that aims to add work requirements for Medicaid and other welfare programs.  Will this help to reduce poverty or make it worse? 

The US has a “poverty management” system, rather than a poverty reduction system.  If you follow the money from the federal government to state to local entities, you will see it comes down in silos, for specific programs, creating a kaleidoscope of complicated, fragmented services.

Progressives want more subsidies in the absence of robust livable-wage job creation. Conservatives want fewer subsidies and increased personal accountability. Work requirements are intended to increase personal accountability. But, if economic development programs, workforce programs, and safety net programs are not held accountable to providing enough good jobs and coordinated services that move people out of poverty, individual responsibility policy fixes have little to offer. They might sound good politically, but they often make life more difficult for those who are having the most problems in our economy.

To reduce poverty, we must:

create poverty reduction systems that are financed to support people out of poverty, as in 200% or more of the federal poverty level; eliminate the cliff effect built into safety net programs that financially penalize people for taking more hours, higher pay, and new jobs; create more jobs with better and more up-to-date economic development strategies.

There are solutions to poverty. Many conservatives believe the solution lies in people accepting more personal responsibility, and many liberals believe we need to provide more benefits and better jobs. What is the answer? All of the above.

For more information on our Circles USA solutions, please read my latest book, co-authored with my conservative friend, Denise Rhoades, “Bootstraps and Benefits: What the Right and Left Understand about Poverty and How We Can Work Together for Lasting Solutions.”

Together, we can begin the end of poverty in our lifetime. Join the conversation at CirclesUSA.org

March 2017 Impact Report

This report measures our success in key strategic areas related to achieving a major reduction in poverty. The data is collected from Chapters across North America America and is compiled by Circles USA.

THERE ARE FOUR VARIABLES THAT INFLUENCE THE RESULTS OF CIRCLES, INCLUDING:

1. The level of employability of Circle Leaders CUSA tracks whether people are in situational poverty or have been raised in poverty. We also note whether they are entering an educational or career track. The level of work experience usually determines the level of soft skills people possess prior to Circles that assists them in earning more income.

2. Availability of Jobs The availability of good-paying jobs in a community dictates how easy it is for people to find economically secure jobs. The trends of automation, globalization and artificial intelligence are rapidly changing the economy. People must have higher-level skills to be qualified for jobs that provide enough income to reach at least 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and become economically stable. Circles provide long-term support so that people can achieve the education and training necessary to secure good jobs.

3. The impact of the Cliff Effect The most challenging Cliff Effects are in childcare and healthcare insurance. For many, there is a real hardship from shifting from stable benefits to unstable earned income. This is especially true if that income does not cover all the expenses the benefits covered. People raised with food stamps, housing assistance vouchers, and/or TANF subsidies often find it psychologically difficult to exchange secured benefits for new earned income opportunities. If they cannot predict changes, it becomes a potential crisis to accept more earned income. Therefore, Circles USA created its own online Cliff Effect Planning Tool.

4. Social Capital Circles boosts the social capital of each participant to have more peer relationships as well as “Allies” who provide new networks of connections. Circles is co-designed with a variety of education, employment, and human services programs to provide volunteer-driven community supports that produce better results.

DATA REGARDING SPECIFIC CHAPTERS OR COMMUNITIES IS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST.

Philanthropy Magazine Article

John M. Templeton Jr.

The Roundtable is the leading voice in philanthropy for objectivity, integrity, open-mindedness, and stewardship with a commitment to measurable results.

– John M. Templeton Jr., Chairman and President, John Templeton Foundation

Circles USA has been featured in the most recent edition of Philanthropy Magazine, published by Philanthropy Roundtable.

This article comes as Circles USA begins our 2017 expansion and shares the heart warming story of Danika. When Danika was 21 years old, she nearly became a homeless single mother. After dropping out of college she was working at McDonald’s and couch-surfing. Eventually, she humbly returned with her infant to her mother’s home in Asheville, North Carolina. Danika’s efforts to improve her job-readiness skills led her to the local Circles program, which gave her the help and motivation to become self-sufficient.

Philanthropy Magazine Article on Poverty

 

The Election

ellection effects on povertyThis week’s election has awakened me from a certain amount of sleepwalking. Even though I pay attention to national and global affairs, I often don’t take the time to register the weight of the seismic events affecting our world. I can be emotionally detached from the churning, suffering, and momentous upheaval that is the reality for so many people.

The emerging world economy, climate change, and propensity towards violence remain the biggest threats going forward. The election has stirred up an unprecedented upheaval in people’s minds and hearts about how we are going to handle these challenges.

The economy is going to require a massive new understanding of jobs, wages, benefits, taxation, etc. We are about to see huge shifts in what gets automated and what training and retraining humans will need to do in order to find work in the immediate and near future. Structures like Circles will be essential to support people who are taking on the changes, and even more so for people who feel unable to adapt with these rapid changes.

I have been worried about climate change for more than 15 years after participating in my first intensive weeklong conference on the topic. Certainly there are enough people in power, not to mention virtually the entire scientific community, who fear the threat of inaction. Right? We will certainly find ways to hold our major corporations accountable to take more aggressive actions to reverse the trends before bio systems collapse and make life incredibly difficult for the millennials and their children. Right?

But what evidence do I have that humanity will not shoot itself in the foot by never addressing climate change appropriately, i.e. urgently, aggressively, and immediately? It seems we are likely to keep escalating the problem through the prolonged release of carbon emissions. We are likely to keep hopping on planes to visit exotic places and get in our SUVs to drive to the grocery store and buy products transported 1000 miles for our global palates and convenience. We are likely to keep buying a mind-boggling amount of new plastic gadgets we don’t need and return to our homes that are warmed by coal-burning plants.

It’s akin to catching the last call at the bar on the Titanic. Unfortunately humans are capable of enormous denial in the face of danger. Most of us are never going to leave the carbon emissions bar until the captain of the ship says we are about to hit an iceberg. (Or in this case, there are no icebergs and the ocean now meets the shores of Ohio.) Unfortunately, bio systems have feedback delays, which means they won’t show the kind of warning signs that would get the attention of a carbon-intoxicated party crowd.

Violence is an unnecessary reaction to fear. We can and need to be better at how we communicate and solve problems with one another. Being nonviolent is a skill that can and should be taught to everyone. We need to show our children that it is best to take responsibility for one’s actions, stop blaming others, and be less addicted to the idea of winning at all costs.

There is a lot to reflect about. Many of us have the capacity and interest to think globally and connect the dots of history to potential scenarios of the future. But we must engage others who disagree with us in meaningful dialogue. We need to get much more active.

We can’t just whine about this with like-minded friends over lattes. We can’t just post it on Facebook. We need to power up through social media and political action to increase the public’s ability to think more flexibly and systemically. As our skills and tolerance for meaningful dialogue increase, we will be less tempted to hide our insecurity behind simple, convenient, and meaningless sound bytes. We will welcome a more rigorous assessment of the threats and opportunities in front of us. We will be more prepared to take comprehensive actions.

Life is complicated. As for my next steps, I am going to work on my social media skills so that more people are inspired, irritated and challenged by my thinking. I am going to listen more actively to opposing opinions and keep my mind and heart open even when I vigorously disagree. But mostly, I am going to lead a movement to end poverty in the US. This is something I can do that is causing a different culture to emerge–one that is more sustainable for everyone.

Conservatives and liberals must work together to find solutions to poverty. Stronger safety nets will be needed while we transition into a rapidly changing economy that will hopefully produce more and better jobs. New economic development strategies and powerful retraining programs must be deployed in our desperate rural and urban communities. Everyone should agree that leaving safety net programs should not cause a financial crisis. The current policies that produce the Cliff Effect must go.

I am going to keep doing what I do only I am going to do it bigger, louder, wider, and deeper. If there is one thing that inspired me from this election, it is GO BIG or GO HOME! We can and should end poverty in our nation, in our lifetime. That achievement alone would well equip us as Allies to our global neighbors and bring a new stability to the world. End Poverty in America

 

Evaluating Paul Ryan’s Plan “A Better Way”

Paul Ryan's "A Better Way Plan"

Dear All,

It is obvious that the poverty and economic pain felt, especially in rural communities, influenced the results of the election, much to everyone’s surprise (especially in the pollster business).

Now that we have the results, it is imperative for each of us to understand Paul Ryan’s poverty plan, a Better Way. As one of our board members, Jim Masters, commented this morning, this is probably the plan that Trump will defer to, given there are no other plans on the table yet. Please download and read,A Better Way“.

If we want to the government to support an approach like Circles it will need to be framed first in terms of “bootstraps.” Benefit programs will be seen as a necessary evil if they remain temporary while people chase work.

Cliff EffectEliminating the Cliff Effect is a nonpartisan, no-brainer. And I believe, the timing is good to bring that problem forward to Ryan’s team to solve without dismantling the subsidies in the process.

I believe that strategies like Circles will continue to be popular with this administration because it is “community driven”, taps volunteers to improve the results of formal community and government programs, and is focused on moving people permanently out of poverty. We should continue to talk about the bootstraps and benefits package(s) necessary for more households to increase their earned income. Of course, unless there is MORE AND BETTER economic development throughout the country, the human development side of the equation can only go so far in reducing poverty rates. Automation, artificial intelligence and globalization are going to continue, regardless of what policies are in place. We must advocate for stronger economic development programs. Again the lack of good jobs drove these election results. People need better jobs.

Poverty LegislationHere is Trump’s position on infrastructure which may lend insight to where new investments will be made that offer jobs for those we serve.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts

Scott Miller - End Poverty

 

 

 

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