Bill to encourage jobless to volunteer advances

OLYMPIA — A state Senate panel Friday approved a bill inspired by two Snohomish High seniors that would steer jobless adults into community service without jeopardizing their unemployment checks.

The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee backed the legislation after a hearing in which students Kristen Hoffmann and Marissa Martz said volunteering could help those seeking work gain skills, showcase their talents and network with prospective employers.

“There are businesses where you can show them what you can do and they can see what you are really made of,” Martz told lawmakers. “They can then see first-hand your ethics, your motivations, and how hard you want to work for the business. And I think when you’re unemployed that can really help your chances of getting employed again.”

Hoffman stressed the value employers might associate with community service.

“Instead of just a piece of paper given to a future employer like a resume, you actually get to show what you’re doing and what you’re worth,” she said.

Unemployed adults must meet certain job search requirements to be eligible to receive benefits. Under existing law, each week they must complete at least three job search-related activities such as contacting employers or making in-person inquiries and filling out applications.

Under Senate Bill 6392, two hours of community service may be substituted for one job search activity.

Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, sponsored the bill following a meeting with the students in January.

Originally, Hoffmann and Martz sought to make community service mandatory for most unemployed adults. But state employment officials told lawmakers that would conflict with federal laws concerning unemployed workers and Washington could lose up to $1 billion dollars in federal funds if it made such a change.

Leaders of statewide labor organizations and Democratic lawmakers opposed the bill upon its introduction — and still oppose it with the changes. They don’t think it will help out-of-work individuals find jobs and could be viewed by them as a punitive measure.

Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma said the bill is “a great idea but there’s some debate about it” and encouraged the students to speak with some of those foes about their concerns.

In an interview before the committee vote, Hoffmann and Martz said they hadn’t anticipated as much fervor from opponents as they encountered.

“This has been a real eye-opening experience,” Martz said. “It’s hard when there’s a lot of passion on both sides.”

Hoffmann said if the concept doesn’t fly this year, she might contemplate trying again in 2015.

“If you’re going to receive money from the government you should give something back to the community,” she said.

Senate Bill 6392 will now be considered by the Rules Committee which could allow it to be voted on by the full Senate.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

Food stuffs for a local chapter of A Simple Gesture at Fitness Evolution, the communal pick-up point, in Arlington on Jan. 12. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
There’s an easier way to donate to food banks

Grab a green bag, fill it gradually with grocery items — and someone will pick it up from your home.

Lake Stevens man shot by deputies reportedly was suicidal

The fatal shooting is the latest incident where someone apparently wanted police to fire.

Man suspected of robbing Rite Aids

Mill Creek police released a sketch Monday evening of the suspect.

Suspect: Marysville church fire ignited by burning shoelaces

The 21-year-old told police it was an accident, but he’s under investigation for second-degree arson.

Police seek witnesses to Marysville hit-and-run

A Seattle man suffered broken bones in the accident.

Tracking device leads police to bank robbery suspect

The man walked into a Wells Fargo around 3:15 Tuesday and told the teller he had a bomb.

Mayor, others break ground on low-barrier housing in Everett

Somers: The complex is expected to save lives and “really shows the heart of this community.”

Volunteers conduct annual count of homeless population

They worked througha standard set of questions to learn why people have ended up where they are.

Former Everett councilman also sued his employer, the county

Ron Gipson says he suffered racial discrimination related to an investigation into sexual harassment.

Most Read