Bill: Give tax credits to Utah employers who hire homeless
Sometimes an employer needs an extra nudge to take a chance on hiring someone who is homeless.
HB274, a bill sponsored by Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, is King's second attempt to install an incentive by providing businesses with tax credits of $500 to $1,000 for each homeless individual they hire to work 80 to 160 hours per month for six months.
The measure cleared its first hurdle Wednesday, passing out of the House Revenue and Taxation committee with a favorable recommendation. But members of the public were equally adamant in voicing opinions for and against HB274, probably signifying a tough battle the bill will face when it receives full debate on the House floor.
In 2012, King's HB101 the precursor of this year's HB274 cleared the House but died in the Senate, as did most bills that required funding in such a lean budget year. The fiscal note for HB274 predicts costs of $248,000 in 2014 and $496,000 in 2015, and those dollars would come out of the education fund.
Davis County resident Peter Cannon, a fan of limited government, spoke against the bill.
"In my favorite world we would have volunteers taking care of the homeless rather than having government do that," said Cannon, who conversely opposes the idea of reducing the amount of money that should be spent on education.
Pamela Atkinson, a longtime advocate for the homeless community, said she believes that businesses need incentives to take a chance on hiring a homeless person. She also believes such a choice pays big dividends.
"The first thing when they get a job, their self-esteem goes up. They feel, 'I'm worth it,' and they put a lot of energy into making this opportunity work," Atkinson said.
Camille Winnie of the Downtown Alliance also spoke in favor of the bill.
"The downtown community bears a good portion of [the homeless] burden," Winnie said, referencing the many individuals who spend their days hanging around the shops and businesses because they have nowhere to go. "By hiring these individuals, you'd be helping the environment down there as well."
Gayle Ruzicka of the conservative Eagle Forum spoke against the bill.
"I think this idea of creating an unfair advantage" giving a tax credit for hiring a homeless individual instead of hiring someone else also in need of a job "over a period of time [could make] the people you didn't hire end up homeless," Ruzicka said. She argued that such policy falls outside the proper role of government.
However, Linda Hilton, project director for the Coalition of Religious Communities, said the tax credits would help give homeless individuals equal footing not an advantage when they apply for jobs.
The committee vote on the measure was 11-5 in favor, with the bill now heading to the full House. King said he would work with Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, on the possibility of adding a sunset mechanism that would require evaluation of the measure's success after a specified period of time should it pass.
HB274 heads to the House of Representatives for full floor debate.