Senator Portman Makes Case For Multipronged Attack Against Poverty

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Staff at The City Mission gave Portman a full tour, discussing the services they provide former inmates and homeless people.

“Hey, how are you? I’m Rob Portman, nice to see you," Portman said to a woman at her desk.

"Yeah, me too," she replied.

“Sue is a licensed mental health therapist. She’s been on our staff now for almost two years," said Reverend Richard Trickel, the CEO of The City Mission.

Portman’s visit comes after the latest step in reauthorizing his Second Chance Act. It aims to reintegrate former inmates back into society, through job training and other support programs. Portman first authored it in 2004 with Cleveland Democrat Stephanie Tubbs-Jones. It was passed into law four years later.

The Senate Judiciary Committee recently passed the latest version. It now goes to the Senate Floor and then the House of Representatives. The legislation enjoys the support of both major political parties and civil rights groups, so Portman is hopeful it’ll sail through Congress.

“Incarcerating someone costs $25,000-35,000 a year," says Portman. "And instead of that, to find somebody the treatment they need and the job that they need. It saves the taxpayer money, and saves the crime and the community. And brings families back together, so…I think it’s really a sound approach.”

But Portman isn’t on board with renewed calls to increase the federal minimum wage, as some anti-poverty activists and Democrats have made. Portman says employers might not be able to cover the proposed increase of $10.10 an hour, thus leading to job losses.

Ohio’s other Senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown, champions the possible hike as way to give impoverished workers a livable wage.

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