Legislation requiring public assistance recipients to undergo self-reliance training or risk losing their coverage passed a second reading in the Senate on a 23-5 party-line vote Friday.
SB 153 – Self-reliance Training for Public Assistance Recipients, sponsored by Senator Lincoln Fillmore (Republican – South Jordan), requires that those who receive food stamps complete at least two hours of training and counseling in principles of self-reliance and the practices to help them achieve it within 90 days as a condition of receiving assistance beyond 90 days. Those who do not comply would have to reapply for their benefits.
The bill has language would also require the Department of Workforce Services to seek a waiver from the federal government in the possible event that federal law does not allow self-reliance training as a condition of receiving public assistance in order to make the state eligible for the funds.
“The goal of public assistance programs is and ought to be to help individuals who are in either temporary or permanent need of assistance to achieve a greater degree of self-sufficiency and self-reliance. This bill furthers that principle,” said Fillmore.
Senator Karen Mayne (Democrat – West Valley City) questioned the usefulness of making people who have been laid off or are sick go through the training. “You’re going to make a laid off worker that’s worked all these years go through training on how to be self-reliant? You’re going to ask people that are ill, that need help, that have worked all their lives and now you’re going to give them training?,” said Mayne.
Fillmore responded by saying that each person would receive instruction that is unique to their own situation.
Senator Howard Stephenson (Republican – Draper) praised the bill, noting that it will help with intergenerational poverty. “This training isn’t just to shame them. It isn’t to require them to realize that they ought to be self-reliant. This training will enable them to become more self-reliant and to direct their own lives,” said Stephenson.
Senator Luz Escamilla (Democrat – Salt Lake City) worries about the impact it could have on families with children who depend on food stamps. “It’s a real shame that we can stand here and talk about penalizing and making people feel ashamed of who they are and their circumstances. Zero compassion on our side, but the worst part is where we are hurting children at the end of the day,” said Escamilla.