First Poverty Initiative Bill Passes House

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Representative Dave Reed
62nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Stephen Miskin
717-705-7173 (Office) 717-756-3936 (Cell)
[email protected] / Twitter: @SAM1963 /

May 5, 2015

First Poverty Initiative Bill Passes House
Legislation provides added support for low-income college students

HARRISBURG – Assisting college students in need from across the Commonwealth, the first bill stemming from the anti-poverty initiative "Empowering Opportunities: Gateways out of Poverty" passed the House unanimously today, Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) said.

Empowering Opportunities was launched by the House Majority Policy Committee in 2013. Reed served as chairman of the committee, which traveled across the state talking with nonprofit and community groups, along with local officials, in an effort to develop ways to transition people from poverty into lives of self-sustainability.

"Education is a key to helping those in poverty move to self-sufficiency," Reed said. "One of the overriding themes we found during this effort was the need to connect students with employers who can offer them family-sustaining careers, and that’s exactly what this legislation does. It provides specialized assistance for these students, and helps fill in-demand positions throughout the Commonwealth’s workforce."

Empowering Opportunities was designed to identify the barriers low-income Pennsylvanians face when attempting to reach self-sufficiency. The report, "Beyond Poverty," published in 2014, shares the best principles in positively combatting poverty in the Commonwealth and suggested legislative and policy priorities moving forward.

Since assessments have shown that poverty isn’t contained to one type of community, the committee worked to examine it in a wide variety of locations, including inner-city neighborhoods, suburbs and also in the state’s rural areas. The hearings, roundtable discussions and tours included testimony from more than 100 stakeholders in locations that included Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, the Poconos and Clearfield County.

"Already spending billions, the fact is government subsidies, entitlements or sound-bite initiatives haven’t and won’t eradicate poverty in Pennsylvania," Reed said. "Poverty in rural and urban areas is different, yet education is a constant to help people into self-sufficiency."

House Bill 934 would redesign the Keystone Education Yields Success Program (KEYS) to allow Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients the ability to graduate with associate degrees at any of Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges, a career or technical school registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, or a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education university.

"Under current law, students are only allowed to use the KEYS program for one year, which often leads to a large number of drop-outs," Reed added. "We need to do everything we can to transition people into lives of self-sustainability – recognizing that the best anti-poverty program is a job."

Reed explained this legislation, which extends assistance services to two years, would provide the support needed to make that happen for students at the Commonwealth’s colleges, universities and technical schools.

KEYS does not pay tuition for students, who would still need to apply for financial aid. It does provide career mentoring, tutoring, academic support and additional supportive services for students who are coming out of lives in poverty. The changes to the program are supported by a wide range of groups, including the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the Community Justice Project and the United Way.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. For more legislative news and updates on other Empowering Opportunities bills, go to

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