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On June 21, a House vote to reauthorize the Farm Bill, legislation that authorizes a number of agriculture and rural support programs as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), program failed 195-234. The outcome of the vote was largely a surprise, as the Farm Bill is typically passed on a bipartisan basis.
The Farm Bill includes authorization for the SNAP Employment & Training (SNAP E&T) program as part of the SNAP Title. Under current law, SNAP E&T supports a range of job search, job training, and related services for low-income SNAP recipients. Under current law, all states are required to operate a SNAP E&T program, though they are given considerable discretion on the types of services that must be offered and subpopulations that must be served. Approximately 2.6 million individuals participated in the program in Fiscal Year 2010, including nearly 1.5 million who used the program to pursue a secondary diploma or recognized equivalent.
Each state currently receives annual formula funding to cover the costs of program administration—these grants are known as “100 percent” funds because it is 100 percent federal funding. In addition, states may also receive what are known as “50-50” funds, which are 50 percent federal reimbursements for state administrative costs that exceed their 100 percent allocations, as well as participant reimbursements. Because federal funds for SNAP E&T are extremely limited—100 percent funds were just $79 million last year—the most successful state SNAP E&T programs are utilizing 50-50 funds to provide robust employment and training services to the greatest number of program participants. The House bill would permanently reduce the 100 percent funds from $90 million to $79 million.
The House bill would make two important changes to SNAP E&T:
• Creates new reporting requirements for SNAP E&T programs. The new reporting requirements would include basic skills gains and progress toward a degree or certificate as well as employment and earnings outcomes. Importantly, these reporting requirements will help develop a baseline understanding of what SNAP E&T programs are currently doing without creating incentives to stop serving lower-skilled individuals; and
• Creates a new $30 million pilot ($10 million a year for 3 years). The pilot program would fund a competitive grant program to support state efforts to create or expand high-quality SNAP E&T programs designed to help SNAP recipients access education and training that would help them improve their skills, secure quality employment, and reduce their need for public assistance.
National Skills Coalition strongly supports both of these provisions.
Unfortunately, the bill also included more than $20 billion in cuts to the SNAP program, and a provision added during the amendment process which would remove families – children included – from SNAP if the parents are unable to find employment. The amendment did not provide for any additional funds for job training or other support for jobseekers. Further, it would have created a purported “work requirement” for a program that already has work requirements. The funds saved by removing families from the program would go to states for general use.
This amendment caused a number of Democratic members who previously planned to vote in favor of the bill to withdraw their support. In addition, a number of Republican members withheld their support, citing insufficient cuts to the SNAP program.
Because of the SNAP cuts and program changes, National Skills Coalition is unable at this time to support the bill in its entirety. It is unclear at this time what the path forward is on the Farm Bill. The Senate has already passed its version, and now awaits a House version that can be conferenced. NSC will provide updates on the bill as information becomes available.