ANNAPOLIS – Legislation aimed at getting Maryland businesses to help welfare recipients go to work won tentative approval Wednesday in the Maryland House of Delegates.
The measure provides incentives for businesses to hire welfare recipients by authorizing two new state income tax credits. It has support from both businesses and advocates for the poor.
“I’m extremely gratified, not so much for the businesses that are my clients but for Marylanders who may be helped by this bill,” said Paul A. Tiburzi, a lawyer with the Coalition for Job Opportunities, about 50 businesses that back the bill.
Jane McDermott of APG, Inc., a consulting firm in Columbia that represents many of the coalition companies, also praised the legislation.
“I think an important component of any good welfare reform, especially where you’re going to limit the time welfare recipients can receive benefits, is that there’s jobs available,” McDermott said. “It only makes sense to give employers incentives to hire recipients.”
The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on its version of the measure.
The House version of the bill was sponsored by Del. James C. Rosapepe, D-Prince George’s, who said it “goes together like a hand and glove” with a welfare reform bill sponsored by Del. Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore. Rawlings’ bill has been criticized because, while it penalizes welfare recipients who don’t get jobs or enroll in training programs, it does nothing to guarantee those jobs will be there.
McDermott said Rosapepe’s measure gives incentives to hire workers with lower skills because it defrays some of the higher costs of training them.
Both the House and Senate versions give businesses a credit against individual and corporate income taxes for wages paid to people they take off the welfare rolls.
Tax credits would also be given for child care expenses provided or paid for by an employer for the new employees.
The amount of the tax credits would vary over the three-year life of the program:
– Up to $1,800 per employee during the first year.
– A maximum of $1,200 in the second year.
– Up to $600 in the third year.
The child care credit would decline from maximums of $600 to $500 to $400 per employee over three years.
The House version allows businesses to take the tax credits only when the new employee has been on welfare at least one year. The Senate measure, meanwhile, has no time minimum. “We are trying to avoid abuse and to focus on welfare recipients who are most in need of help,” Rosapepe said. -30-