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Rock County group receptive to Ryan's poverty plan

Program would give grant to states to decide how to use locally

Rock County group receptive to Ryan's poverty plan

MADISON, Wis. - U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said he has a plan to reduce poverty across the country. He's calling for major changes to how the government helps low-income families, including giving states and local organizations more control.

Ryan spoke at the American Enterprise Institute Thursday morning on the subject, sharing his plan for a new opportunity grant.

The pilot program would consolidate 11 federal programs, including food stamps and housing subsidies, into one, then provide the grant to states to decide how to best use it locally. Ryan said a neutral third party would keep track of results.

"My thinking is, listen to the boots on the ground, the local leaders who are changing the status quo," Ryan told the crowd at AEI Thursday morning. "Let them try unique and innovative ideas with a proven track record, and then test the results."

Ryan said state agencies wouldn't be the only service providers; community organizations doing similar work could get more funding.

Community Action Inc. in Beloit is doing some of that work, focusing on early intervention programs as well as education and employment work.

Executive Director Lisa Furseth said she thinks a new plan changing how services get to those in need may be a step in the right direction.

"If the federal government can partner with states and local communities in order to improve the way systems work and make those ladders more available to people, then we believe that is a good thing," Furseth said.

Ryan's plan is getting a lot of attention at the national level, in part because some see this as a possible policy precursor to a run for president in 2016.

Democratic members of the House, including U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, are skeptical of the plan, saying Republicans have used the tactic of block grants in the past to cut funding to safety net programs.

Ryan is likely to talk more about his plan across the country during a book tour next month.

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