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Bill Encouraging Businesses to Hire the Homeless Advances

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Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, cleared an early hurdle by having his bill to offer a $1,000 tax credit to business that hire homeless individuals pass favorably out of committee Thursday.---

“It’s basically going out and assisting both homeless individuals and the business community in the state of Utah to get individuals transitioned from being homeless to a more permanent setting -- a home, a rental unit, something where they can really get their feet under them and move forward with their lives,” King said.

The bill would give companies a $1,000 tax credit for employing individuals who either reside in a shelter or permanent supportive housing, and who work at least 20 hours a week, 80 hours a month for six months. The committee was overall impressed with King’s House Bill 101 and liked the idea of a measure that would help incentivize businesses into potentially taking homeless individuals off the public dime and into self reliance.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, a former president of the board of trustees of the Road Home Shelter in Salt Lake City, said the incentive is much needed for individuals who often have the odds stacked against them in applying for jobs.

“As soon as they put 210 South Rio Grande Street -- which is the address of the main shelter [on a job application] -- that’s usually strikes one, two and three in a lot of cases,” Eliason said.

During public hearing, Royce Van Tassell of the Utah Taxpayers Association, however, spoke against the measure, arguing that a fairer remedy would be a truly flat tax that would benefit all and not just the homeless.

“It’s not clear to the Taxpayer Association that social welfare is best conducted through the tax code,” Van Tassell said. “The fact is there is a $1,000 credit for each person, and that money came from someplace and it will be paid for by somebody else.”

Rep. Merlynn Newbold, R-South Jordan, also challenged the bill, suggesting the credit was too high and that a 20-hour-a-week job would still mean individuals would be able to receive financial assistance from the state. Eliason, however, pointed out that the individuals would at least be paying income taxes.

Ultimately, the committee agreed and voted the bill favorably out of committee.