The Right Wing

Mandatory Self-Reliance Classes for Welfare Recipients? Utah Bill Is Red-State Cruelty at Its Worst

The bill would require recipients of government assistance to complete a two-hour self-reliance course within 90 days.

Front of the Utah State Capitol
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The Utah Senate just passed a bill that would require public assistance recipients to take a two-hour self-reliance class. If recipients don't complete the training within 90 days, they would be cut off from their welfare.

A Think Progress piece by Bryce Covert explains why many find the bill curious and unnecessary.

"The bill seems to be premised on the idea that low-income people are poor because they’re bad with money," writes Covert, "which would mean that teaching them to be better with money could solve their poverty. But that’s not borne out by data. Generally speaking, the poorest Americans spend larger portions of their budgets on necessities and spend less on eating out, entertainment and alcohol than others with more stable income."

The bill, SB153, was proposed by Republican State Senator Lincoln Fillmore, a local businessman who joined the Utah Senate in 2015. Fillmore is also president of the charter-school-management company Charter Solutions. A 2010 Desert Newsstory about the company noted how "the business of offering support services to charter schools is becoming increasingly intertwined with charter school politics" in Utah. "Tension over the issue peaked...when the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools reworked its management," the piece explains. "Four of the board's seven members now have strong ties to Parents for Choice in Education, an advocacy organization that is notorious for its support of privatization. Two board members, including Fillmore, operate charter school management companies."

Fillmore's bill might not even be allowed under federal law. The Utah Department of Workforce Services will have to receive a waiver from the federal government in order to implement it.

"I don’t think the senator even knows who these individuals are," said Sen. Luz Escamilla. "It really tells me that he’s completely detached from the realities of the working-class families.”

Michael Arria covers labor and social movements. Follow him on Twitter: @michaelarria