As part of the Alliance for Opportunity, we released a policy roadmap with the goal of bringing poverty relief to countless Americans. The roadmap is broken up into three key sections: keeping vulnerable Americans on track, ensuring everyone has the right to earn a living, and addressing poverty through the justice system. The first part of the roadmap rethinks and reformats the current safety net system to make it more consumer focused and efficient so that it addresses people’s needs more holistically while ensuring they receive the resources necessary to no longer need safety programs.

Despite decades of federal assistance, Louisiana has at least 800,000 people receiving some form of government aid and consistently ranks among the poorest states in the union. Unfortunately, this isn’t a recent development. It is enduring evidence that the current status quo isn’t working.

To address this issue, we need more transparency through recurring audits of welfare programs to better understand how much time recipients are on public assistance, how programs are helping reduce the need for future government assistance, and the long term outcomes of social welfare programs in Louisiana. The safety net is supposed to catch us when we fall but far too often it ensnares people and traps them in a cycle of dependence. The state needs to rethink how we measure success in the programs not by how many people are on them, but instead how many people no longer need them.

Fact finding is just the first step. It’s necessary to rethink the status quo and fundamentally change how the safety net operates. Currently, there are over forty safety net programs managed by countless departments and agencies. This creates a bureaucratic maze that is difficult for people to navigate. To fix this, all programs must be coordinated to avoid conflicting rules and inconsistent treatment of people between programs. We must consolidate and combine systems to streamline the safety net, thus helping people get the resources they need to get back on their feet.

One example is a policy called No-Wrong Door. This will integrate human services with social services, so as people sign up for safety net programs, they are seamlessly offered work training, child care, and other job related assistance to help get people back on their feet and back on a path to self-sufficiency.

We can’t wait any longer to bring poverty relief to countless Americans. The failure of government safety net programs to help people get back on their feet and on a pathway to self sufficiency has trapped many people in a cycle of poverty. It’s time to break that mold and restore people’s opportunity to flourish.