Sen. John Harms
District 48

Newsletter – March 12, 2013

March 12th, 2013

Greetings from the State Capitol!

LB 240 is the end of a series of legislation that I have enacted since 2009, relating to provisions on educational development opportunities in the Welfare Reform Act as a segue out of poverty and welfare or public assistance. LB 240 is scheduled for introduction in front of the Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday, March 14.

This idea on education as a tool in the Welfare Reform Act began in 2009 with LB 458.

LB 458 provided vocational training under public assistance, which specifically permitted studies leading toward an Associates degree, diploma or certificate to be counted as a work requirement activity under the requisite 20 hours a week for 36 months. This legislation was set to sunset on September 30, 2012.

In 2011, LB 507 permitted individuals under the age of 24 to pursue a High School diploma or General Education Diploma as a work activity requirement under Aid to Dependent Children compensation and compliance, also requiring 20 requisite hours a week for the month.

This legislation required an annual report to measure impact and track the number of persons engaged in an Associate Degree program, a vocational education program that does not necessarily lead to an associate degree, a post secondary education program, an Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language and a General Education Development Program. Included in the report are the number of persons who have maintained employment for six month intervals up to 24 months after not being eligible for cash assistance anymore.

LB 507 stipulated that when Nebraska reaches a 55% threshold near the 50% work participation rate federally required for Nebraska, the Department can set a limit on the number of applicants engaged in education related employment as a work activity. This provides a mandatory review and safety threshold under the act.

In 2012, LB 842 simply extended the sunset clause established in LB 458 from September 30, 2012 to December 31, 2016. This simply allowed for the continuation of the Welfare Reform Act.

Currently, LB 240 permits individuals over the age of 24 to pursue a High School diploma or General Education Diploma under Aid to Dependent Children compensation and compliance. The purpose is to provide those individuals who are just over the 24 year age mark, the needed opportunities to establish a basic education in order to bring themselves and their families out of poverty.

An individual under the Welfare Reform Act is enabled though comprehensive assessments, goals, benchmarks and accountability standards under a required self sufficiency contract. However, education is key.

We all know that providing an education for the parent is just as significant as providing an education for the child, in so much as the child often follows the role model of the parent. If a parent is able to establish stable footing with a basic level of education, it will pave the path to a higher education, a higher income and ultimately a higher social-economic standard and quality of living.

That, in turn, affects the child because the child sees the positive impact.

Education is the tool to achieving self sufficiency and empowerment. If we give families the tools and the opportunity to make it happen, these families will undoubtedly work to improve their own conditions, not only through the establishment of goals and measured results, but also with significant meaning and purpose in life.

Education is not just a means to a practical end, it leads to self respect, dignity and empowerment. And with that, who knows how far a person can go!