Lawmakers want people in Illinois to further their education. They believe locally it would help business development. Legislators are looking at how changes to requirements for governmental benefits would provide an incentive.
"We have roughly 45 thousand people in the Rockford area who do not have high school diplomas," State Senator Steve Stadelman said.
Stadelman said that gap makes the area less competitive when it comes to attracting businesses and keeping those companies local. Proposed new legislation could change this by helping low-income adults get their high school diploma or GED.
A bill Stadelman stands behind changes requirements for people to receive financial help from one government program called TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Stadelman's republican counterpart State Senator Dave Syverson helped create TANF back in the 90s. He said he's on board with making changes.
"I have no problem supporting it. I think creating another alternative is ok," Syverson said.
The way it is now people can get assistance several ways including if they are getting work experience or if they're trying to get a college degree.
A proposed amendment would allow people to qualify if they prove they're completing their high school education.
"This legislation would allow GED classes to fulfill those work requirements," Stadelman said.
Supporters of the bill believe if someone is pursuing a diploma or GED, they're one step closer toward getting a job and toward financial independence, so they should qualify for government assistance while they get this education.
"If GED classes don't fulfill those core requirements to continue receiving TANF Benefits we're basically saying to people education is not that important don't worry about that," Stadelman said.
Syverson said TANF should continue to serving its original purpose.
"People were not meant to be on governmental benefits for years and years it was meant to be temporary until they got back on their feet," Syverson said.
What may seem like a small adjustment to this program could have a big impact on Rockford.
"This is better for the local economy if we have more of a highly skilled worked force," Stadelman said.
The bill passed in the senate's human services committee" unanimously and next will be discussed by the full senate this coming week.