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Earlier today, National Skills Coalition submitted a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, urging them to reject expanded work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and instead focus on investing in education and training strategies that would allow SNAP participants to get and keep family-supporting jobs.
The House and Senate have both passed versions of the “Farm Bill” this year, which would reauthorize the SNAP program along with a range of other federal programs relating to agriculture, rural development, and conservation. One of the primary differences between the two bills is the treatment of work requirements under the SNAP program. The House bill – which barely passed by a vote of 213-211 in late June, following a failed floor vote in May – would significantly expand the number of SNAP participants who would be subject to minimum hourly requirements for work, training, or other activities each month, or else risk losing access to nutrition benefits. The bill would increase state formula funding for SNAP Employment & Training (SNAP E&T) programs to help address state and local case management responsibilities, but the funding levels and two-year timeframe for implementation are inadequate for the scope of the proposes changes: the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that states would not be able to meet their statutory service requirements even ten years after passage of the House bill, and the resulting gaps in service would likely contribute to as many as 1.2 million individuals losing access to SNAP in an average month relative to current levels.
By contrast, the Senate bill would not make significant changes to SNAP eligibility, largely maintaining current law while adding $185 million in new funding for pilot projects to test and expand innovative strategies for assisting SNAP participants in gaining skills and credentials of value in the labor market. The Senate bill had broad bipartisan support, passing by a vote of 86-11, and would provide stability to states and other stakeholders who have taken steps over the past decade to strengthen and improve SNAP E&T services.
The two chambers are planning to establish a formal conference committee to resolve differences between their respective bills – the House has appointed their representatives for the negotiations – with a goal of completing reauthorization in advance of the September 30 deadline. In our letter, NSC calls on conferees to reject the House proposals and instead adopt the more effective pathway set forth in the Senate bill. NSC will continue to provide updates to the field as the negotiations continue, and provide opportunities for the field to weigh in on this critical legislation.