AUGUSTA — A bipartisan bill dubbed a pathway out of poverty by its sponsor, a top legislative Democrat, got final, unanimous passage by the Maine House of Representatives on Friday.

The so-called “ticket to work” proposal would direct administrators of the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to work with benefit recipients to help them obtain long-term employment, first screening them to ensure they are prepared for such a move.

The bill, L.D. 1343, sponsored by House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, faces another vote in the Senate before going to Gov. Paul LePage’s desk for approval.

The bill is one of several submitted in the Legislature this year trying to address employment issues for people receiving public assistance.

Eves submitted a similar bill in 2011 that initially passed both chambers of the Legislature unanimously, but it died when the Department of Health and Human Services estimated it would cost nearly $1 million, leading the Republican-led Legislature to reject it.

However, the current bill was supported by the LePage administration at a public hearing earlier this year. It is expected to require only a “minor cost increase” by using federal block grants and existing DHHS resources.

In a statement, Eves called the bill “real reform that ensures a pathway out (of) poverty for struggling Maine people.”

“The strong bipartisan support for this bill shows that we can come together to truly strengthen and reform our anti-poverty programs,” he said.

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