Federal legislation establishing the food stamp program gives states the option of imposing such courses like job training or classes for a high-school-equivalency diploma. Their goal, said Ligon, is to help people get off the public dole.
"To the extent that you can give training, all of a sudden, doors open up to them, and they can get a job or a better job and get off assistance," said Ligon, R-Brunswick.
Last week, a subcommittee Ligon chaired changed Senate Bill 407 from being a statewide requirement to one for a five-county test program.
Monday, the chairwoman of the full Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, instructed him to get an official cost estimate and to change the wording so that it would only apply if funds become available. She said the committee had wanted to impose a similar requirement before the recession reduced state budgets.
Democrats and lobbyists for social-service agencies were more harsh.
They asked the author if any charities had volunteered to pay part of the costs of childcare or transportation for those covered under the new requirement.
"Were you aware that there's already a shortage of funds for childcare?" asked Sen. Steve Henson, D-Tucker.
"I wasn't aware of that specifically," Ligon answered.
Laura Lester, director of advocacy for the Atlanta Community Food Bank, testified that non-profit organizations like hers were already getting more demand for food than they can meet and had no funds available for childcare or transportation to training programs. As a result, people will get kicked off the program for not meeting the training requirements and seek food handouts from the food banks, she predicted.
"We're very, very concerned if we put in a mandatory program, then it will have that many more people coming to us," she said.
Ligon disagreed that a training requirement would be an obstacle to people needing food, arguing that it would instead be a motivation.
"When you discuss barriers, really, those are self-imposed," he said.Unterman announced the committee would meet again next week. It could vote on SB 407 then if Ligon gets the estimate and makes the wording changes, she said.