Washington (CNN) – Rep. Paul Ryan spelled out his plan Thursday to fight poverty, a pilot program that would combine 11 federal programs into one pool of money for participating states.
According to the plan, which the Wisconsin Republican detailed at the American Enterprise Institute, states would voluntarily submit their own anti-poverty proposals in order to get money.
"If everything passed muster, the federal government would give the green light," he said. "And the state would get more flexibility. It would get to combine into one funding stream 11 different programs, things like food stamps, housing assistance, child care, and cash welfare."
Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, also serves as the House Budget Committee Chairman. Ryan’s program, titled “Opportunity Grant,” would include the same money as current law allows for anti-poverty efforts. He is to speak further about his plan at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington Thursday morning.
The program would consist of four criteria: Each state would have to spend all its allotted money on people in need; recipients would have to meet work requirements; states would each use at least two service providers to carry out their proposals (in other words, the state social welfare office wouldn’t do all the work); and a third party would monitor the state’s progress.
Ryan stressed that the point of the program is to measure the results in each state to find the best approach.
“We would not expand the program until all the evidence was in,” he said. “The point is, don't just pass a law and hope for the best. If you've got an idea, let's test it and see the results.”
The poverty rate in the country is 16%, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics from 2012.
Ryan, who hasn’t ruled out a 2016 presidential bid, has been vocal about finding ways to help the country’s poor, an issue that’s become a top priority for Republicans following the 2012 presidential loss, in which Republicans lost badly among lower-income minority voters. Other potential 2016 contenders, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, have spelled out their own plans.
Income inequality and wage gaps have also become a main focus of President Obama’s second term.
For his part, Ryan has been visiting urban communities and meeting with non-traditional Republican voters to assess what’s needed to fight poverty, using conservative principles.
He released a 204-page report earlier this year on the current state of federal efforts to alleviate poverty, listing 92 programs designed to help the poor at a cost of $799 billion.
The congressman landed in hot water earlier this year when he made controversial comments in a radio interview, saying there’s a "tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work."
He later met with the Congressional Black Caucus, in part to address his comments, which he labeled “inarticulate.” But they also met to discuss some of his ideas to fight poverty.
Critics point to Ryan’s history as the lead man on budget proposals that called for billions in cuts to social welfare programs, such as Medicaid. His measures were passed by the Republican-controlled House but didn’t go anywhere in the Democratic-lead Senate.
Hillary Clinton, who's seriously considering a second run for the White House in 2016, said Ryan's new plan is "a bad idea."
"All one has to look at is nearly half the state that refused to expand Medicaid to realize why it is a bad idea," she said on NPR. "The states won't even take what are very generous terms from the federal government to give working people and poor people access to health care. How can we turn over (to the states) all of the resources that are meant to assist those in need?"
Ryan's work on poverty issues dates to the 1990s when he was an aide to the late GOP vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, who headed a policy group called "Empower America." Kemp visited poor neighborhoods and pushed proposals to earmark federal and private resources to "empowerment zones" to lift people out of poverty.
CNN’s Deirdre Walsh and Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed to this report.