On Tuesday, September 15th, I testified before the Joint Committee on Children and Families on two of my high priority bills.
These bills came out of the work and recommendations of the the Asset Development Commission, which I’ve chaired for the past two years.
S. 37, An Act Removing Barriers to Financial Stability and Asset Development for Low-to-Moderate Income Families proposes to raise asset limits for people receiving different public benefits, in order to allow low and moderate-income families to save money so they can pull themselves out of poverty by going to college, buying a house, or starting a business. Too often, state policies serve to create more obstacles for poor families that prevent them from breaking the cycle of poverty, and S. 37 would serve to eliminate some of these financial barriers.
S. 38, An Act Relative to Worker’s Pathways for Self-Sufficiency, would allow these same families to better access Education Rewards grant that allow them to go to college or another educational institution, in order to gain the skills to get a better job and move out of poverty.
While I was pleased to testify on these bills, the most inspiring part of the hearing was all of the policymakers, activists, and residents of the Commonwealth who came to tell their stories.
Among the citizens testifying was a woman who had been able to attend Smith College through an Individual Development Account (IDA) program, allowing her to provide a better life for her family.
Another man, on the board of the Crittendon Women’s Union, talked about how his daughter, in part through the benefits of being raised in a middle-class family, has been able to move onto college and have a successful job while a young METCO student of the same age who the family had hosted ended up dropping out of college after graduating from high school because she couldn’t pay the tuition. There were also dozens of anti-poverty practitioners who talked about how asset development programs have made such a difference in the lives of their clients, and how increased flexibility in state asset limits could help even more families.
In my remarks to the committee, I made the observation that state government has passed legislation to invest in biotech companies, promote alternative energy, and attract film producers to Massachusetts, all in the name of economic development. The state needs to be equally vigilant in promoting economic development for those who are less well off in Massachusetts, so that all citizens have a chance to provide a better life for themselves and their children. I believe that removing asset limits from state policies is a critical part of encouraging this kind of economic development and self-sufficiency.