Behning: Removing barriers for students from low-income families

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Friday, February 28, 2020 2:50 pm

Many young Hoosiers participate in paid internships, apprenticeships and work-based learning programs to help jumpstart their careers. Unfortunately, some may turn down these valuable experiences because the income they earn could put their families at risk of losing benefits, like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. A proposed new law could help ensure students do not have to pick between potential career opportunities and the needs of their families.

Federal programs like SNAP and TANF are designed to temporarily help struggling Americans get back on their feet. From being laid off from their job to experiencing a life-altering event, Hoosiers from all walks of life may find themselves in need of these benefits. These programs are based on household income, which includes income earned by students. 

In a recent committee hearing, we heard from a single father of three who relied on SNAP, TANF and Medicaid benefits to make ends meet and care for his children. His son participated in a paid work-based learning program. However, his earnings put the family over the income threshold, forcing the father to ask his son to quit, so they would not lose critical financial support.  

This potential new law would exempt students’ income earned through these programs from their families’ eligibility for certain benefits.

Internships, apprenticeships and work-based learning programs are important tools to grow the state’s workforce and prepare Hoosiers for a number of high-wage careers. Many students already participate in these programs through school and receive academic credit as well through Indiana’s graduation pathways. Instead of preparing students for every option after high school or even limiting their options, Hoosiers can explore multiple paths. Because students have different career goals, it is important they have the opportunity to choose a path that best fits their aspirations and skill sets.

As we enter the final weeks of the 2020 legislative session, many bills have already been sent to the governor’s desk to be considered as a new law, including this proposal. Visit iga.in.gov to follow our progress, or reach out with input and questions at h91@iga.in.gov or 317-232-9648.

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State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents House District 91,
which includes portions of Hendricks and Marion counties.
Click here to download a high-resolution photo.