MONTPELIER (AP) - The Vermont program for getting people off public assistance and into the workforce is drawing debate at both ends of the Statehouse.

In the Senate on Thursday, lawmakers were debating how firm the deadline should be that says that after five years on the program, recipients who haven't returned to the workforce lose a monthly benefit that averages $640 per household.

In a conference room down the hall, members of the Vermont State Employees' Association held a news conference to decry plans to lay off six Department of Labor councilors who help Reach Up recipients find work.

Aides to Gov. Peter Shumlin say those counselors aren't needed, and they want to put the money into mental health and substance abuse services for recipients instead.