By: AIF Staff
In late June, former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was joined by Senator Tim Scott and Representatives Ralph Norman and Joe Wilson of South Carolina on a visit to the Charleston Digital Corridor, a 92,000 sq. foot workspace and incubator for local businesses based in the center of a burgeoning Opportunity Zone.
The South Carolina site visits, coordinated by the American Idea Foundation, gave current and former legislators a chance to talk with employers and community-leaders about the progress being made in one of the state’s Opportunity Zones.
Created as part of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones are a poverty-fighting tool that provides tax incentives for long-term investments in specific Census tracts. Speaker Ryan and Senator Scott have both been long-time advocates of the policy which aims to revitalize economically-distressed areas through capital incentives. Ryan and the South Carolina legislators talked with some of the 37 job-creators headquartered in the Charleston Tech Center about how Opportunity Zones have spurred business growth in a part of the state where poverty has been persistent.
As Speaker Ryan said during the visit: “The big benefit of Senator Scott‘s [Opportunity Zone] legislation is it has brought tens of billions of dollars of capital into the poorest communities of America. That’s money that would’ve never come otherwise. It’s also brought in the private sector and the public sector to focus on getting people out of poverty.”
Senator Scott added: “This has to be a win-win. A win for investors, a win for citizens, and a win for America and so far, so good.”
While in South Carolina, Speaker Ryan also had the opportunity to meet with the leaders of the McLeod Health Clarendon’s Nurse-Family Partnership, which empowers first-time mothers by pairing them with trained nurses who provide health care and other social services from their pregnancy to their child’s 2nd birthday.
Ryan had a moving conversation with program administrators and new mothers who detailed the relationships they formed with medical professionals and discussed how the wrap-around services helped their children and families.
As the local paper, The Sumter Item, reported:
“Since former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has left Washington, he founded the American Idea Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes poverty-fighting programs and policy to help Americans achieve their idea of the American Dream.
“To further those efforts, he visited McLeod Health Clarendon on Friday to learn about the Manning hospital’s Nurse Family Partnership program.
“The program connects expectant, first-time mothers with a nurse, who helps guide them through the physical, financial and emotional journeys that come with pregnancy and motherhood…. The program has been proven to improve health, economic and parental outcomes, and Paul Ryan held roundtable discussions with hospital leaders, nurses and mothers to learn more.”
The Item went on to cover the visit and its importance, saying in part:
“Nurses in a pregnancy and motherhood program at the county’s only hospital know their work goes beyond health care, breaking barriers between provider and patient, outsider and friend. Now, their stories have reached the ears of who was once one of Congress’ top leaders.
“Children played in the next room last week as McLeod Health Clarendon’s private dining room, which had just the day before hosted a reception marking the hospital’s 70th anniversary, hosted a roundtable discussion about the Nurse-Family Partnership program. Attending were mothers, nurses, hospital executives and former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
“Four mothers took turns telling their story, their nurses by their side, to Ryan. He heard about the mother who was sick her entire pregnancy and had her texts answered late at night. He heard about the nurse who ensured her mothers were signed up for COVID-19 relief payments. And the nurse who started educating a mother’s young sister on how to care for a newborn when COVID-19 put the mom on a ventilator.
“What Ryan learned from the mothers, nurses and program and hospital leaders was why this program works.
“It’s more than health care,” he said.
“If Ryan was looking for evidence-based solutions, he came to the right place when he visited the rural hospital in Manning. As Frank Daidone, CEO of the national NFP, put it, McLeod’s program is the most efficiently run and best performing NFP in the country.”
Since 2014, the Nurse-Family Partnership at McLeod Health has served more than 1,000 families in South Carolina and made over 33,000 home visits. It is an example of the impact that the Nurse-Family Partnership program can have in communities around the country. The program is evidence-based, has been expanded under both Republican and Democratic Administrations, and as Speaker Ryan observed on his visit, it is changing lives on a daily basis.
These site visits are the first of many to be conducted by the American Idea Foundation and are premised on the belief that impactful public policies can be shaped by identifying front-line organizations tackling tough issues, validating their efforts through evidence, and showing lawmakers first-hand how they are expanding opportunities to those in need.