Behning: Removing roadblock to secure high-wage, high demand jobs

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Wednesday, March 10, 2021 10:33 am

With a current unemployment rate nearly 2 percent lower than the national rate, Indiana is bouncing back from the economic impacts of the pandemic. However, it has been a tough year as Hoosier families and businesses took steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. This resulted in joblessness and an increase in those relying on Temporary Assistance For Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program to pay bills and keep food on the table. These programs for the past year helped numerous Hoosiers in need, and now state lawmakers are working on passing a new law that would ensure this assistance is not a disincentive for securing a higher wage and job opportunities.

Indiana needs more skilled workers to fill high-paying, in-demand jobs that continue to stream into Indiana, and we need to do more to strengthen our talent pipeline. Unfortunately, some are not pursuing additional education or work-based training because a bigger paycheck could disqualify them from receiving benefits. While a pay increase could make them ineligible, some may find themselves financially worse off because the additional income would not make up for the total loss of benefits. That's why I am supporting House Bill 1009 to help young, working adults living with their family gain critical skills needed to obtain a high-wage, high-demand job without jeopardizing their families' TANF benefits. 

If the bill is passed into law, an individual 24 years old or younger who resides in a home receiving benefits could earn additional income – up to $15,000 – while pursuing a college degree or workforce certificate, or participating in a pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship. Currently, all income earned in a household is considered when determining benefit eligibility. Under the bill, a family would not lose benefits if their child lived with them while attending college and working part-time. The college student's income would be exempted from their family's TANF benefits.  

In addition, this legislation would increase the state's Earned Income Tax Credit to 10 percent, providing additional tax relief to working Hoosiers struggling to make ends meet. This tax credit is available to low- to moderate-income workers, which more than 500,000 Hoosiers claimed in 2019, according to the Brookings Institute. Increasing this credit could put more than $11 million back into the hands of low-income working families each year and help offset other taxes individuals must pay, including state sales and local property taxes.

This legislation builds on a law I supported last year exempting a high school students' income earned through paid internships or work-based learning programs from their families' eligibility for TANF and SNAP benefits.

In 2020, our state had over 31,000 new job commitments, with an average hourly wage of more than $28. In order to fill these jobs, Hoosiers must be empowered to pursue additional workforce training and education. This legislation would provide more financial security for families, while preparing the next generation for the workforce.

The Indiana Senate is now considering this bill. Visit iga.in.gov to find out more and watch legislative meetings. Staying connected with you and your family remains my top priority. Please reach out with any questions or input at 317-232-9648 or h91@iga.in.gov, and subscribe to my regular e-newsletter at in.gov/h91.

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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.