From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
March 26, 1997
Contact: Rick Svataro, (512) 463-0113

Senator Ellis Wins Committee Approval of Two Proposals to Help Welfare Families Succeed.

AUSTIN, Tx. -- State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today won unanimous approval from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee for two proposals aimed at helping families on public assistance to achieve long-term self-sufficiency. According to Ellis, one measure (Senate Bill 1113) would increase incentives for businesses to hire recipients of public assistance and a second proposal (Senate Bill 1114) would help welfare recipients gain access to transportation in order to get to work.

"Texas must do more to provide welfare recipients with the tools they need to make the most of their own lives," Ellis said. "The real challenge of welfare reform is ensuring that new jobs are available and that we provide the job training, child care and transportation services that are necessary to help families succeed."

Improving the State Tax Refund Program for Businesses that Hire Welfare Recipients. (SB 1113)

Based on a Texas Performance Review proposal, Ellis said that his legislation would improve the state tax refund program by providing employers with additional insurance options to make it easier for them to qualify for the program. The legislation also designates the Texas Workforce Commission as the lead agency in promoting awareness of the state tax refund program as well as other federal tax incentives.

According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, the state tax refund program has been underutilized because employers' insurance policies often do not meet the strict requirements of the law. Ellis said his legislation would allow greater flexibility regarding insurance policies accepted under the program.

Wheels for Work Pilot Program (SB 1114)

A second proposal by Ellis would require the Texas Workforce Commission to establish a "Wheels for Work" pilot program designed to make donated cars available at low cost to recipients of public assistance whose most significant barrier to work and self-sufficiency is transportation. Ellis said that a similar program in Maryland has helped dozens of families move from welfare to work by increasing access to transportation.

"Recent research has shown that the growth of private sector service jobs is largely being created in suburban areas," Ellis said. "Transportation between many poor urban neighborhoods where welfare recipients live and the outer ring of economic opportunity must be improved to make welfare-to-work a success."