Senate Tinkers with Education, Welfare RulesThe Democrat-controlled Senate may be the last hope for advocates who want to expand educational opportunities for welfare recipients.
Following passage of a House bill that some say will restrict education access, a Senate committee has approved a plan with greater flexibility for welfare recipients.
Under current law, no more than 30 percent of welfare recipients can use education to meet work requirements, and teen parents required to be in school must count toward that cap.
The bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee would maintain the cap but eliminate teen parents from the calculation. In another potentially critical move, the Senate bill would expand from 12 months to 24 months the amount of time a person could use vocational education to meet work requirements, as long as the student makes progress toward a degree or credential.
Similar to the House-passed bill, however, the Senate measure would increase the proportion of welfare recipients who must participate in work activities to continue receiving assistance.
Many advocates say education is essential for welfare recipients to gain high-skill, high-wage jobs. While welfare rolls have dropped since enactment of the 1996 welfare reform law, many of those who have entered the workforce lack critical skills that can help them escape poverty.
The Finance Committee bill now goes to the full Senate. If the bill gains approval, a House/Senate conference committee would then meet to resolve differences between the bills.
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