Rep. Hudson: The system is rigged for those trying to lift themselves out of poverty

Madeline Gray North State Journal
Congressman Richard Hudson talks with employees of Piedmont Natural Gas following a roundtable discussion with Sen. Thom Tillis and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee William Thornberry on May 27 in Fayetteville

KANNAPOLIS — U.S Rep. Richard Hudson, who represents the 8th Congressional District, met with Cabarrus County nonprofits in a roundtable discussion at Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce. The discussion was part of Hudson’s “A Better Way to Fight Poverty” tour across North Carolina. “Republicans care deeply about poverty; we just have a different idea about how to solve the problem,” Hudson said. “We ought to change the model. Instead of measuring the success of the war on poverty based on how much money we spend or how many mouths we feed, let’s start measuring the success based on how many people we lift out of poverty.”

The roundtable discussion allowed nonprofit directors to address their concerns and issues. Main discussion points included opioid abuse and treatment, welfare programs, childcare, as well as government spending and funding. “What is the federal government doing to make your jobs harder?” said Hudson. Ed Hosak, executive director of Cooperative Christian Ministry, suggested the federal government “get out of the way,” and resource decision-making moves to the local level. Valerie Melton, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus, asked, “Who is making these decisions?” Hudson’s “A Better Way” six-part plan includes a detailed breakdown on funding and spending. The plan calls for a pay-for-outcomes model that promotes competition among the states and shuts down failing programs. It also suggests a pay-for-results partnership in which the government collaborates with private sector providers seeking to raise capital for social programs. The government will only repay the investment if the program achieves its stated goals. Another central discussion topic was opioid abuse and treatment. Hudson met with Fayetteville Mayor Nat Robertson and the Fayetteville Opioid Task Force Tuesday to discuss ways to combat, prevent and treat the growing problem. Fayetteville ranks 15th nationally in prescription opioid abuse. In 2015, Cabarrus County officials stated a 600 percent increase in heroin overdoses.

Alice Harrison, CEO of Serenity House, stated the importance of transitional housing for recovery but also the double-edged sword of funding. Yearly grants have been cut for transitional housing, not just in Cabarrus County, but across the U.S. Serenity House lost a yearly grant of $350,000, she said. “Here in Concord, two-thirds of our men that come into Serenity House have their drug of choice as opioids and that’s something we’ve never seen before … 129 people die every day as a result of overdoses, suicide, opioid related, even more so heroin-related, so I’m hoping that’s something we can look at,” said Harrison.

Ann Benfield, executive director of Cabarrus Partnership for Children, dug deeper into the issue mentioning that addiction happens before the child is born. “Right now, laying in the NICU unit at CHS, there’s probably at least three babies born addicted to God knows what, multiple substances, it’s unbelievable what we see,” said Benfield. Case management is one way the Cabarrus Partnership for Children helps families in poverty, aligning with Hudson’s program that tailors to individual families instead of a one-size-fits-all model.

Hudson stated the system was “rigged” for those trying to lift themselves out of poverty. “It’s immoral the way we trap people,” he said. The plan includes a way to connect work requirements with federal housing, and help children in poverty overcome and break the cycle of generational poverty through improving schools. The plan will help families learn to plan, save and increase work requirements for those on welfare. Instead of subtracting benefits to those who begin to earn more, there will be a “work reward.” Hudson said he wants to fight to change the system — poverty is a distant issue to those in Washington, he said — from witnessing it firsthand. He said growing up and hearing stories from his mother, a preschool teacher, deeply impacted him. A Better Way also includes an agenda for national security, the economy, constitution, healthcare and tax reform. “It’s an alternative to the past eight years, and I think it’s the right path forward,” Hudson said.