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Arkansas law will require people receiving housing benefits to work


LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas. The bill, due in committee on Wednesday, would require people on housing benefits to work.

The bill, sponsored by Republicans Ben Gilmour and Kendon Underwood, would help bring about changes to Arkansas’ welfare programs. Any able-bodied adult who applies for housing benefits will need to work.

Gilmour said it would add workers to a job market that desperately needs them.

“Our employers need people to work with,” Gilmour said. “They are ready to hire them. Our goal is to encourage and encourage people to return to work.”

Gilmour said this does not apply to people who cannot physically work. Under the bill, job requirements are defined as individuals who work an average of 20 hours or more per week, volunteer for the same number of hours, complete any combination of work and participation in a work program for 20 hours or more, or meet the requirements of a work experience program. Applicants must meet one of these standards.

“We want to help you, not stretch you,” Gilmour said. “We want to encourage you to go and look for a job.”

People have supported such measures in recent years. Some said it would eliminate fraud and boost the economy.

Opponents argue that these measures often have unintended consequences or adverse outcomes. Ife Floyd, director of TANF Research and Analysis at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, noted some of these unfavorable results.

“Removing government benefits from people who do not qualify for work ignores the body of scientific evidence that such policies make it harder for people to find and keep a job,” Floyd wrote.

In a research articleFloyd noted that people living in poverty often face systemic problems that prevent them from seeking or holding long-term employment.

“People living in poverty often face one crisis after another, draining the mental resources needed to deal with new problems and plan for the long term,” Floyd said.

Gilmour said he understands the complexity of the problem but believes the work makes sense. He said he expects easy passage once the bill passes through the normal channels.

The bill will be presented to the committee on Wednesday.

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