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Pence: Agency switch not mandate on volunteering

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Gov. Mike Pence said an executive order placing a formerly independent state agency that promotes volunteerism under the authority of the agency that administers unemployment benefits isn't a precursor to requiring out-of-work Indiana residents to volunteer to receive benefits.

Pence told The Times of Munster that the change was aimed at improving government operations by streamlining.

Pence noted in his April 7 order that unemployed workers who regularly volunteer increase their chances of finding a job by nearly 30 percent. Pence said the order renaming the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to Serve Indiana and placing it under the authority of the Department of Workforce Development "creates a comprehensive approach to workforce development through increased community investment in workforce training programs."

Pence said he believes a 2013 federal study looking at 10 years of data on the volunteer habits of the unemployed provides "real evidence" that volunteering is an excellent way for out-of-work Indiana residents to find a job.

"There's a very interesting correlation, and common sense would explain it, between getting people essentially from welfare back into the workplace, and also those individuals who will find opportunities to volunteer and participate in their community in various activities," Pence said.

Lawmakers in at least eight states, including Indiana in 2011, have considered legislation that would require volunteering as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits even though federal unemployment rules say benefits only can be denied for fraud or issues relating to an individual's job loss.

A 2011 proposal by state Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, that would have set a requirement for volunteering that would gradually increase the longer a person is unemployed, never advanced out of committee in the Republican-controlled House.

A 2012 effort by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., to allow states to condition unemployment payments on volunteering did not advance in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

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