Jun. 17, 2015

HARRISBURG – The House Health Committee today took the first step toward to empowering working Pennsylvanians to fulfill their own “American Dream” by unanimously advancing legislation co-authored by State Reps. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) and Tom Murt (R-Montgomery/Philadelphia).

House Bill 1164 would reform the Commonwealth’s child care benefits structure in order to help families retain temporary assistance, while allowing them to earn their way out of poverty.

Under current law, families who earn more money eventually reach a so-called “benefits cliff” at which even a slight increase in their income makes them completely ineligible for services worth substantially more than the potential income increase, thereby discouraging them from accepting raises or working additional hours.

“This all-or-nothing system forces a parent to make a choice between the best of two bad situations,” Bloom said. “The parent can accept a raise and become completely responsible for their child care payments, which they cannot afford, or they decline the raise, remain able to work, keep their children in the same care and continue to receive benefits.  This forces many parents to limit their own earning potential to keep their benefits in place, inadvertently launching cycles of dependency.”

The proposed legislation would address this issue by increasing co-payments as parents earn additional income.  In addition, when parents reach the current benefits cliff, they would not be cut off from services.  As they earn more money, their responsibility for the cost of services would increase until their income can support it entirely.

“In our attempt to help families in need, government often crafts laws that have unintended consequences,” Murt said. “While I remain committed to helping Pennsylvanians who are struggling to escape poverty, I am just as committed to changing laws that dissuade parents from finding private sector employment due to lost government benefits.”

In 2013, the House Majority Policy Committee began its Empowering Opportunities: Gateways Out of Poverty policy initiative, led by then Majority Policy Chair, now Majority Leader, Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana). House Bill 1164 was co-introduced by Bloom and Murt in response to the committee’s findings. The measure now heads to the full House, where Reed said it will be scheduled for a vote next week.

“Government should never withhold people from becoming self-sufficient or achieving their American Dream,” said Reed.  “Today’s committee passage is a positive step to change government’s direction to provide new pathways out of poverty.”

Representative Dave Reed
62nd District
Representative Stephen Bloom
199th District
Representative Tom Murt
152nd District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Abbey Haslam