With Congress expected to begin consideration of a new Farm Bill early next year, National Skills Coalition today released recommendations for strengthening the SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) program as part of the reauthorization process. The recommendations – which were developed in consultation with a range of national and local partners – would build on key policy improvements made in the 2014 Farm bill and expand access to high-quality, skills-based training models for SNAP recipients seeking to get and keep well-paying jobs.
The 2014 Farm Bill made several important changes to support SNAP E&T, including implementing new pilot projects to test innovative strategies; enhancing E&T reporting and monitoring requirements; and, providing additional funding for E&T. Following the 2014 Farm Bill, NSC has worked to help states utilize their SNAP E&T programs to provide job training and support services to those who want to build their skills and find good jobs. We partnered with Seattle Jobs Initiative to provide intensive technical assistance to four states and produced a number of resources to help state partners advocated for skills-based SNAP E&T.
With reauthorization of the Farm Bill, we have an opportunity to expand on the work that’s occurred over the past four years. The SNAP E&T recommendations we released today would build on these important efforts by:
- Reforming the SNAP E&T Program Grants (“100 percent” grants). NSC recommends increasing formula funding to states from $90 million to $180 million, and encouraging states to ensure that every SNAP participant who might benefit from training or related services has meaningful and sustained access to such programs. Congress should enact safeguards to ensure that states do not reduce SNAP caseloads through punitive sanctions, and providing up to $20 million in funding for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) at the Department of Agriculture to provide technical assistance to states.
- Maintaining and improving the 50 percent reimbursement program. State agencies can draw down reimbursements for 50 percent of certain costs that exceed the state’s funding under the E&T formula grant, including education and training costs, and for certain E&T participant expenses. NSC recommends maintaining the current 50-50 model, and increasing the reimbursement rate for certain funding sources (like employer contributions) and for programs that are specifically focused on serving people with barriers to employment.
- Eliminating the separate ABAWD definition. Under current law, Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) must participate in at least 80 hours of work per month, 80 hours of certain education or training per month, or otherwise comply with requirements of a “workfare” program in order to receive benefits for more than three months in any 36-month period. NSC recommends eliminating this separate category and instead urges Congress to focus efforts on helping all SNAP participants access the skills and credentials necessary to move into sustainable careers.
- Coordinating SNAP E&T state plans with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) state plans. Current law requires states to submit an annual plan to the Department of Agriculture outlining their planned uses of SNAP E&T funds. To make sure that states are providing a broad range of training and support services for low-income workers and businesses, Congress should consider strengthening coordination between SNAP E&T and other federal and non-federal workforce programs as part of the state planning process.
- Maintaining and strengthening recently established SNAP E&T reporting measures. One of the key innovations under the 2014 SNAP reauthorization was the adoption of new reporting measures that allow states to track employment and earnings, and program completion rates for those who have participated in a SNAP E&T activity. Congress should maintain and strengthen these reporting measures as part of any SNAP reauthorization.
Strengthen connections with employers through work-based learning. While participation in apprenticeship and similar work-based learning models are allowable activities under SNAP E&T, there are relatively few incentives for states or their employer partners to invest the time and resources necessary to take these strategies to scale. Congress could encourage greater use of these effective approaches by specifically identifying apprenticeship and work-based learning as eligible activities under SNAP E&T; providing increased reimbursements for employer contributions under the 50-50 program; providing tax incentives to employers to hire and train SNAP recipients; authorizing SNAP E&T funds to be used to support a percentage of wages paid during participation in a work-based learning program; and establishing a Work-Based Learning Support Fund that would provide funding for wraparound services for SNAP recipients participating in these programs.