Georgia Senate Passes Bill Requiring Food Stamp Recipients to Participate in Educational Activities

It was widely reported yesterday that the Georgia Senate passed SB 312, a bill that would require food stamp recipients to earn their GED, pursue technical education, attend personal development classes of some kind, or enroll in adult literacy classes. The text of the original bill can be found in this earlier post. I took a quick look this morning and I don’t see any significant amendments to the bill as introduced, but you can investigate  for yourself by following the history of the bill here (bottom of the page).

According to USA Today, the bill exempts people under 16 or over 59; the mentally or physically disabled; people working at least 30 hours a week; students; participants in alcohol or drug rehabilitation programs, caretakers for a dependent child under six years of age or for an incapacitated adult or people receiving unemployment benefits. The Georgia Department of Human Services would create a five-county pilot program before taking the initiative statewide.

But I don’t see any reports, or any language in the bill or amendments, suggesting that an increase to adult education funding is included as part of this initiative. The intent of the bill, according Sen. William Ligon, the bill’s sponsor, was “to help underemployed Georgians get the professional development training they need to better themselves.” I would have assumed that an initiative intended to—and that likely will—increase demand for adult education services would include additional funding for those services. Perhaps there are separate efforts underway to make more funding available.

Another source reports that the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts estimates the pilot program will cost $23 million, and statewide implementation expected to cost $772 million. But I don’t think those costs include additional state investment in adult education services. I’d love to be wrong!

Of course, there is also a question as to whether it’s fair or makes sense to mandate unrelated and possibly (for some) unrealistic requirements to a program that is designed to provide a very minimal level of food security to poor people. There are often good reasons why people are not be able to participate in training programs or adult education, including lack of transportation and/or lack of appropriate services.

Georgia Senators Introduce Legislation to Require Food Stamp Recipients to Participate in Educational Activities

In December, a group of state Senators in Georgia introduced legislation that would mandate participation in “personal growth activities” for those otherwise eligible for food stamps to retain eligibility. The language is vague about what constitutes a “personal growth activity,” so on the face of it, this requirement doesn’t appear to be as difficult to meet as, for example, the education requirement being considered by the House of Representatives in their UI extension proposal.

I have no idea whether this bill is likely to become law. But it’s interesting to keep track of proposals like this, i.e. proposals to link eligibility for certain government benefits programs with participation in adult education activities.

Here is the full text of the proposed amendment (the new language is underlined):

SECTION 1.

Chapter 4 of Title 49 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to public assistance, is amended in Article 1, relating to general provisions, by adding a new Code section to read as follows:

49-4-20.

(a) In order to be eligible for food stamps, an applicant shall engage in personal growth activities, which may include, but not be limited to, working toward a general educational development (GED) diploma, if not a high school graduate; pursuing technical education; attending self-development classes; and enrolling in an adult literacy class.

(b) The department shall promulgate rules and regulations to implement the requirements of this Code section.

(c) This Code section shall not apply to an applicant who is employed at least 40 hours per week.

(d) The commissioner may, by regulation, waive or alter the requirements of this Code section for cases or situations in which the commissioner finds that compliance with the requirements would be oppressive or inconsistent with the purposes of this article.

The bill also amends a section of Title 49 related to TANF administration, so that “personal growth activities” programs are included in the “personal responsibility obligations” required of TANF recipients, and, similar to the provision above, adds “working toward a general educational development (GED) diploma, if not a high school graduate; pursuing technical education; attending self-development classes; and enrolling in an adult literacy class” as examples of such acitvities. I’m not familiar enough with Georgia TANF administration to know whether that language would be likely to support more TANF recipients to enroll in adult education.