Arkansas bill would require people receiving housing benefits to work

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A bill set to be heard in committee Wednesday would require people receiving housing benefits to work.

The bill, sponsored by Republicans Ben Gilmore and Kendon Underwood, would push for changes to Arkansas’ social safety net programs. Any able-bodied adult who applies for housing benefits would be required to work.

Gilmore said this would add workers to a job market that desperately needs them.

“Our employers need people to do jobs,” Gilmore said. “They’re ready to hire them. Our goal is to encourage and incentivize people to get back to work.”

Gilmore said this would not apply to people who cannot physically work. Under the bill, work requirement is defined as someone who works an average of 20 or more hours a week, volunteers the same hours, meets any combination of working and participating in a work program for 20 hours or more or complies with the requirements of a workfare program. Applicants would need to meet one of these standards.

“We want to give you a hand up, not a hand out,” Gilmore said. “We want to incentivize that you go and look for work.”

People have supported similar measures in recent years. Some said it would eliminate fraud and be a boost for the economy.

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

“Taking government benefits away from people who don’t meet work requirements ignores a body of scientific evidence that these policies make it harder for people to find and maintain employment,” Floyd wrote.

In the research article, Floyd noted people living in poverty often face systemic challenges that prevent them from seeking or holding down long-term work.

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

Gilmore said he understands the complexity of the issue but thinks there is virtue in working. He said he anticipates easy passage once the bill goes through its normal channels.

The bill will appear before committee Wednesday.