House OKs bill to let felony offenders tap into KEES money

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A bill allowing felony offenders to tap into scholarship money they earned to pursue post-secondary education degrees cleared the Kentucky House on Wednesday.

The measure would remove barriers preventing felons from receiving scholarship money under the popular Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship program. The state lottery-supported program allows students to earn money, based on academic performance, to help defray college expenses.

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The House passed the bill 96-2, sending it to the Senate. Rep. Killian Timoney called it a “compassion bill” offering opportunities to keep people from making more life-altering mistakes.

“Removing this obstacle will open doors for students all across the commonwealth who have had a felony conviction but who so desperately want to improve their lives and the lives of their families,” he said. “Who knows, this bill may help a first-time college attendee, changing their trajectory and the paths of other family or community members in the process.”

The bill would return the financial incentive to people who earned it, he said.

The measure has drawn support from business and social justice advocates.

Business advocates see it as a way to expand the state’s workforce by reintegrating past criminal offenders and boosting their education. Social justice advocates view the increased access to KEES support as a way to strengthen families by reducing the number of repeat criminal offenders.

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The legislation is House Bill 25.