For Immediate Release
July 26, 2012
Contacts: Jennifer Talhelm, 301-405-4390 or email@example.com
New Technology Can Help Get Aid to Low-Income Americans: UMD Expert
Public Policy's Besharov Testifies on Hill on 'Tantalizing' Promise
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Since 2000, federal and state governments have dramatically increased the amount of food assistance provided to low-income Americans, partly because eligibility rules are being interpreted differently around the country, says Douglas J. Besharov, a poverty expert at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, in testimony to a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee recently.
While Americans have different opinions about whether the increase in aid is a necessary step, especially during the recent recession, Besharov says using technology along the lines of a program being tested in the United Kingdom, could help ensure that eligibility rules are "not the result of piecemeal, unexamined decisions" as can be the case in the United States now.
"Senior policy makers should have more control over such significant benefit allocation decisions," Besharov argues in prepared testimony for the U.S. House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee. "The use of modern technology could enable us to do better."
Technology could reduce the temptation to stretch eligibility rules, and it could be used to get a much more comprehensive look at the budget and policy impact of changes to programs, he adds.
Besharov, who directs the Welfare Reform Academy and the Center for International Policy Exchanges, has studied the development of a pilot program in the United Kingdom that he says opens "tantalizing" possibilities if something similar could be developed in the United States. Called "Universal Credit," the program is designed to simplify income reporting, which determines a person's eligibility for assistance.
Besharov says it could also help address unintended problems plaguing the U.S. system, such as complications in the rules that actually create disincentives for low-income Americans to work. For example, under the system now, a working mother who increases her hours at a job from part-time to full-time, might still make just $13,000 a year - and, because her benefits are tied to her income, she would see little improvement to her financial situation because her new income would trigger a disproportionate decrease in her government assistance.
"As the UK's new Universal Credit program illustrates, modern technology holds the key to untangling and rationalizing marginal tax rates - so that they are less of an obstacle to encouraging recipients to work," Besharov says.
EXCERPTS FROM BESHAROV'S TESTIMONY
Besharov's complete testimony is available online: http://ter.ps/139
Information provided by the Office of University Communications
Email University Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org