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In its 2018-19 budget, the Ohio legislature took an important step toward supporting quality skill-based training programs for Ohioans eligible for food assistance (SNAP). The new law requires that the Director of Job and Family Services, in collaboration with the Chancellor of Higher Education, convene a planning committee to expand a skills-based SNAP Employment & Training (E&T) program. Representatives of community colleges, local workforce development boards, and nonprofit organizations that provide training to low-income people must all be included. The committee will identify potential training partners and funding sources that could be used to leverage SNAP E&T’s 50 percent reimbursement grant (often times called “50-50 funds”). Through these funds, the federal government reimburses states for 50 percent of SNAP E&T program costs paid for with certain non-federal dollars. In addition to supporting education and training activities at community colleges and community-based organizations, 50-50 funds can also be spent on certain participant support services, such as transportation, books and supplies, and child care.
This provision is a win for Policy Matters Ohio and other Ohio advocates including the Ohio Association of Community Colleges, the Ohio Poverty Law Center, the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, and the state’s health and human services coalition Advocates for Ohio’s Future, which have been advocating for the expansion of a skills-based SNAP E&T program in Ohio. Policy Matters recently found that more than 666,000 Ohioans between ages 18 and 64 did not have a high school diploma, and SNAP recipients are much more likely than average to lack this credential. To combat this and other barriers to attaining jobs with family-supporting wages, Policy Matters recommended that Ohio shift to a skills-based E&T model, with the first step being the formation of a planning committee and identification of potential education, training and support service partners and funding sources. Policy Matters supported this proposal through testimony to the Ohio House and Senate. Advocates were pleased these recommendations came to fruition in Ohio’s latest budget bill.
Washington State’s SNAP E&T program, which has grown into a $30 million effort helping roughly 28,000 students who need SNAP assistance attend education and training programs annually, continues to be a model for the Ohio advocates. Ohio is sixth in the nation for people skipping meals or going hungry because they do not have enough money to buy food. This program can help more people build marketable skills while protecting access to the assistance they need to buy food.
National Skills Coalition has long advocated for states to make skill-building an integral part of a state’s SNAP E&T mission. This includes utilizing 50-50 funds to expand quality skills-based education, training, and support services to SNAP recipients. When utilized in this way, SNAP E&T can help prepare recipients for middle-skill jobs with family-supporting wages. For more information on how to develop a skills-based SNAP E&T policy in your state, check out NSC’s Skills-Based SNAP E&T Policy Toolkit.
Rachel Hirsch is State Network Manager at National Skills Coalition. Hanna Halbert is a researcher at Policy Matters Ohio which works to create a more vibrant, equitable, sustainable and inclusive Ohio through research, strategic communications, coalition building and policy advocacy.