Marriage fund for DC poor proposed /Legislator needs to hear from us - 7/05
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Fri Jul 22 13:49:48 EDT 2005
- MARRIAGE FUND FOR POOR PROPOSED
- LEGISLATOR NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU
- MARRIAGE FUND FOR POOR PROPOSED
Senator's Plan in Budget Bill Would Offer Up to $9,000 to District Couples
By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 22, 2005; B05
> The bill would set aside $1.5 million a year for the federal contributions to
> marriage development accounts. It would send another $1.5 million to the East
> Capitol Center for Change of Washington or the National Center for Fathering
> of Kansas City, Mo., to work with churches to provide marriage counseling and
> couples mentoring.
Whatever one thinks of these incentives (and I'm sure we'll hear from
reporters exploring various takes on this one), the service providers
selected do lead to some head scratching. The Kansas-based Center for
FATHERING?!?- to provide MARRIAGE services for DC couples? And, I just
visited the website of the East Capitol Center for Change
http://www.ecccinc.org/ and see not one mention of marriage? There are so
many marriage education/marriage strengthening programs and so much marriage
expertise -- all being bypassed. What can we expect on outcome? I guess
this is how the sausage factory works. - diane
The federal government would provide a marriage bonus of up to $9,000 to
low-income D.C. residents under legislation approved yesterday by a Senate
panel, a plan that analysts said would mark the first such use of federal
funds in the country.
Under the proposal by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), District couples who set
up savings accounts to buy a home, send a child to college or start a
business would receive a matching federal contribution of $3 for every $1
they invested, up to a maximum lifetime payment of $9,000. They would have
to withdraw the money within three years and be married by that time.
The program also would be open for up to four years to single, childless
D.C. residents ages 16 to 22 who have undergone job, education and financial
counseling. The maximum federal payment for single people would be $4,500.
Participation would be limited to couples earning up to $50,000 a year or
single people earning up to $25,000 a year, neither of whose net worth could
exceed $10,000, excluding their home and a vehicle.
Brownback, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the
District, championed the so-called marriage development accounts as part of
the $9 billion District budget bill. The Senate committee unanimously
approved the budget and sent it to the Senate floor.
Congress created similar individual development accounts in 1998, and both
former president Bill Clinton and President Bush have promoted the idea to
help low-income working families and reduce welfare rolls. But the concept
has never been linked to marriage.
In a report explaining the provision, Brownback's aides said that single
mothers account for about 57 percent of the babies born each year in the
District, a figure that is more than 40 percent higher than the national
"Most children born and raised in households where their biological parents
are married are more financially and emotionally stable," the report said.
In an interview yesterday, Brownback, a leading social conservative, called
marriage "a leading poverty reducer."
"We do know the statistics. The best situation to raise a child is a man and
a woman bonded together for life. That's where children do best," he said.
D.C. officials, who often have criticized congressional Republicans for
imposing programs and requirements on the city, said they welcomed the
"The virtual disappearance of marriage among many young African Americans of
every income level and the devastating effects on children demand all the
help we can get to draw attention to the responsibility all of us must
assume," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who founded the
Commission on Black Men and Boys to strengthen black families.
The bill would set aside $1.5 million a year for the federal contributions
to marriage development accounts. It would send another $1.5 million to the
East Capitol Center for Change of Washington or the National Center for
Fathering of Kansas City, Mo., to work with churches to provide marriage
counseling and couples mentoring.
Individuals would get a $200 bonus upon getting married, and couples would
get a $300 bonus for participating in marital counseling.
Some analysts said they doubted whether such incentives would significantly
influence poor working women in their decisions about marriage.
"I can't see how it would hurt, but I can't see how it helps, either," Urban
Institute analyst Gregory Acs said.
"If the senator is thinking of using matched savings as an incentive for
marriage, then I would say there are more important reasons to get married.
As a Kansan myself, I imagine the people back home would wonder what the
senator could be thinking," said Michael Sherraden, a Washington University
professor who helped develop individual development accounts. Sherraden said
he had not seen Brownback's bill.
The senator's plan is more generous than the individual development account
program in the District, which is limited to couples earning less than
$25,660 and individuals earning less than $19,140, and which provides a
federal match of 2 to 1, his aides said.
"I personally could have found better ways to spend 3 million federal
dollars," D.C. shadow senator Paul Strauss (D) said. "But at least this
time, the right-wing social policy engineers brought carrots instead of
sticks to the D.C. budget process."
The budget bill that cleared the Senate committee includes $593 million in
direct federal aid to the District, according to Brownback's staff.
The Senate bill includes two other Brownback initiatives: $2 million in
assistance for Hispanic youths and $3 million to help former offenders find
housing upon release from prison.
Marriage Fund for Poor Proposed
- LEGISLATOR NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU
Here's a time for your list to educate a Congressman on the
importance of marriage research for mental health. Rep. Randy Neugebauer
successfully got an amendment passed to de-fund an ongoing national study
(NIMH approved) aimed at learning how conflict in newlyweds affects their
later marital satisfaction. On his website, he writes: "I am a fan of
marriage. In fact, I have actively participated in one for 35
years. However, despite any scientific merits this research may have, it
fails to contribute to the effort to find cures for Alzheimer's, autism, or
any other serious mental health disease."
He does not get the connection between failed marriages and mental illness,
and he needs to be educated.
The Congressman's press release is
home page is http://randy.house.gov/contact.shtml At the bottom of the page
is a way to email him. Or someone can just go to
http://randy.house.gov/IMA/issue.htm to email him directly.
Although it would be good for anyone on your list to write him, constituents
are best--and they should identify themselves as such. His is the 19th
Texas District of the House of Representatives, which includes Lubbock and
Your list readers can see information about this controversy, including the
researchers' descriptions of the study, at
Sandra Murray, the lead researcher, says: "Marital disruption and divorce
has huge costs for adult mental and physical health, not to mention the
negative effects marital conflict and divorce has on children. My research
looks specifically at how people develop and nurture relationships, and it
has direct implications for both the treatment of marital discord, and the
study of mental illnesses, such as major depression, where the inability to
form or maintain relationships is an important symptom. Given how important
satisfying marriages are for physical and mental well-being, it is
absolutely critical to use scientific methods to understand what makes
marriages function well. Also, contrary to the assertion that NIMH's
mission should focus solely on severe mental illnesses, and away from
promoting mental health, the Public Health Service Act provides a clear
picture of Congressional intent regarding NIMH's mission: 'The research
program established under this subpart shall include support for biomedical
and behavioral neuroscience and shall be designed to further the treatment
and prevention of mental illness, the promotion of mental health, and the
study of psychological, social, and legal factors that influence
Not to mention the 2006 Smart Marriages Linda Waite keynote "Marriage is
Good for Your Health" that dramatically linked marital success to physical
and marital health. Order that on audio or video at 800-241-7785 or at
http://www.playbacknow.com/cmfce. Order session #755-002A
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