Poverty Listening Tour Policy Recommendations

One of the principal goals of the Poverty Listening Tour was to listen to those directly impacted by poverty and then develop effective policies to reduce systemic and individual obstacles. The compelling personal stories provided during this tour, regardless of region, demonstrate many of the factors that complicate efforts to improve circumstances. These further illustrate the great difficulty of crafting a one-size-fits-all solution to deep-rooted poverty.

It is important, therefore, to recognize that any proposed solution, even when universally and ably applied, may not resolve all issues. Based on the testimony presented and from the exploration of this issue subsequent to the hearings, a menu of policy and operational alternatives were discussed to address poverty.

Some of the suggestions made during the tour have been examined. Others have already been implemented in full or in part. Regardless, it is important to identify the options that were generated from listening to first person accounts of poverty. The following list includes those recommendations while detailing the branch of government or governmental operation responsible for executing policy to engage action:

Poverty Policy Recommendations:


Create an Office of Economic Opportunity under the governor to address economic instability, poverty and deep poverty and seek ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government services that serve low-income individuals (legislative);


Establish the PA CARES Council, comprised of community service providers, legal service organizations, county assistance officers, employers, training and workforce development providers, and state secretaries from DHS, DCED, L&I, Education, Health, DDAP, Transportation, Corrections, DMVA and Aging to advise the new Office of Economic Opportunity (legislative);


Establish the Germantown Poverty Relief Initiative, a three-year pilot program to help single women with children escape poverty. The program would help coordinate government and private workforce development organizations, educators and employers in Southeast Pennsylvania. It would also provide targeted outreach and marketing; adult education to enhance workforce and academic skills; career and financial coaching; and job training and placement in apprenticeship or permanent jobs (administrative/legislative/budget);


Improve direct departmental outreach to individuals who qualify for social services to encourage greater program engagement (administrative);


Seek maximum participation for all eligible benefit programs, and encourage voter registration (administrative);


Create a public marketing and outreach campaign to destigmatize poverty in our communities; and provide information for accessing resources, including safety net services and job training programs (administrative/budget);


Create a coordinated advocacy system that identifies individuals and families in need of social service interventions; and assign trained case managers to create customized plans for self- sufficiency at every stage and in every need sector (e.g. legal guidance and representation in asserting their rights, mental and occupational therapists, education and job specialist) (administrative);


Employ and train caseworkers through the Office of Economic Opportunity who will reach into under-utilized communities to find workers to fill employment needs/and coordinate social services and program involvement (administrative/budget);


Enhance intake training and boost pay for county assistance counselors (budget);


Add workforce development and soft skills – such as resume development, budgeting and time management – to caseworker training regimens (administrative);


Require county assistance offices to build, develop and update databases and post resources to better coordinate benefits with community non-profits, advocacy groups, churches and faith-based organizations (administrative);


Enact a $15 minimum wage (legislative);


Study the “benefits cliff” that discourages people from working toward self-sustainability due to program income eligibility limits (legislative);


Consider establishing a Pennsylvania Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and how it can be used to reduce long-term poverty, stimulate job opportunities and reduce dependence on public assistance (legislative);


Enhance state-funded childcare subsidies, and fund childcare at job sites and worker training facilities (legislative/budget);


Encourage integrated regional planning to make the transportation system more accommodating for workers and employers (administrative);


Start a rural transportation pilot program. Use fleet vehicles such as school buses to provide other transportation needs when not directly in service. Encourage and incentivize health care providers and employers to provide transportation services (legislative/administrative);


Encourage and invest in more affordable housing options (administrative/legislative);


Enhance state veterans’ outreach efforts to help coordinate programs for those who are discharged to limit eligibility gaps for social service programs (administrative); and


Support more adult education, job training and outreach programs (administrative/legislative/budget).