Senate agriculture committee approves farm bill.

April 26, 2012

On April 26, the Senate Agriculture Committee voted 13-5 to pass a “Farm Bill” reauthorization that protects funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment & Training (SNAP E&T) program, avoiding efforts from fiscal conservatives to sharply reduce or even eliminate funding for this critical program.

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 less than $100 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. In FY 2011, states used this funding to leverage more than $260 million in state, local, social enterprise, philanthropic, and corporate dollars.

The agriculture committee released a draft on April 25 that codified a recent reduction in 100 percent funds (reduced in FY 2012 from $90 million to $79 million), but the committee accepted an amendment offered by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) restoring these funds. Committee Republicans introduced two amendments targeting SNAP E&T for very deep cuts: an amendment from Sen. Johanns (R-NE) would have eliminated 50-50 funding, and another from Sen. Lugar (R-IN) that would have eliminated the SNAP E&T program outright. Ultimately these amendments were not offered in committee, and the bill was approved with no cuts to SNAP E&T funding.

This is an important victory for the workforce community, but our work is not done on this issue. The House Agriculture Committee must also take up the Farm Bill at some point, and it is possible that they will seek to cut SNAP E&T funds in their version, forcing the committees to resolve their difference through conference. The House committee has already signaled their willingness to cut these funds; on April 18, the committee approved a “reconciliation” bill—required under the House FY 2013 budget resolution—that would codify the cut to the 100 percent funds and eliminate the 50-50 funding, effectively cutting overall federal funding for the program by 72 percent compared to current levels. If enacted into law, this would significantly reduce the funding available for SNAP E&T programs in at least 28 states, and would eliminate supportive services for SNAP E&T participants in 47 states. The reconciliation bill has virtually no chance of becoming law, but does provide a framework for the House to propose cuts under their Farm Bill.

National Skills Coalition sent letters to both the House and Senate agriculture committees opposing any cuts to SNAP E&T, and urging the committees to work to strengthen the program. We will continue to monitor developments relating to the program and provide the field with updates as new information becomes available.