Rep. Tom Petri Wants To Improve Benefits For Low-Income Earners
By Patty Murray
Monday, July 8, 2013, 4:52pm
Two U.S. representatives, including Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wisc., say state and federal officials should look at a variety of benefits for low-income earners.
They say the current mix of programs is often a disincentive for people to move up the economic ladder.
Navigating the mix of programs like food stamps, child care subsidizes, and rent assistance can be a part-time job on its own. Petri says the programs can stand in the way of moving ahead at a real job.
Petri is teaming with Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass to study the issue. He says it's not about increasing or decreasing spending but targeting it in ways that encourage people to get educations and better-paying jobs.
Petri: "We're just trying to improve the incentives so that when people work and earn more money they're better off rather than worse off. We think there's a kind of a poverty trap at the lower-income levels."
Petri says he's heard from constituents who have declined promotions or pay raises because it would effectively kick them off programs they rely on.
Petri: "The phase out means it ends up costing you money. Even worse, if you end up getting married and you have a two-earner family each making minimum wage or a little above that, suddenly you're at $8,000 after tax income - worse off, just because of taking out a marriage license."
The legislation calls for the formation of a commission made up of experts and lawmakers from the federal and state level. The idea is to study how to make the system more streamlined.