Nebraska Legislature considers study of benefit restrictions

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The Nebraska Legislature is looking into how state-funded benefit programs may be changed to allow recipients to advance in their jobs.

The Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1PrWDgS ) reports the legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee met Thursday to discuss a proposed study of the issue.

According resolution sponsor Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, some Nebraskans are forced to continue depending on state-funded benefits rather than risk losing them if their work hours or income exceed limits set by the benefits program.

“It’s completely inappropriate to throw up roadblocks (for) people who are trying to work their way out of poverty,” Kolterman told the committee.

The committee was told that health care is one of the workforces affected by income limits in assistance programs.

Willing workers, many of them single mothers, encounter benefit assistance barriers as they attempt to gain an education while working to support their families, according to testimony.

Those workers may be forced to cut back on their hours, refuse pay raises or turn down better jobs in order to retain needed family benefits, said James Goddard, program director for economic justice and health care programs at Nebraska Appleseed.

“We need to make sure there’s a safety net,” Kolterman said, “not a fiscal cliff” in front of those who are working while sometimes pursuing an education at the same time.

Kolterman said his proposed study is designed to build that state’s workforce, especially in high-need areas, contributing to economic growth while supporting personal responsibility and professional growth.

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