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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) recently introduced a proposal that would cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding by at least $40 billion over ten years—forcing millions of individuals off of the program—and impose significant new restrictions on SNAP Employment & Training (SNAP E&T). The bill could be up for a vote as early as next week.
National Skills Coalition (NSC) sent a letter to House members this week urging them to vote against this legislation. In the letter, NSC notes that House leadership suggested that part of the motivation behind this proposal is to ensure that more SNAP recipients work. Unfortunately, is unlikely that the legislation will result in more SNAP recipients obtaining family-supporting employment. In fact, it’s most likely that SNAP recipients would actually lose access to the kinds of education and training that will help them succeed in the labor market if the proposal were enacted.
The proposal would allow states to cut off SNAP benefits for most adults if they are not working or participating in an employment or training program for at least 20 hours a week, and creates a perverse financial incentive for states to take up this option by allowing states to keep half of the federal savings from cutting people off of SNAP. Furthermore, states that decline to take up this option would actually face a fiscal penalty, as these states would lose all federal matching funds (commonly referred to as “50-50 funds”) for their existing SNAP Employment & Training programs. Beyond this, the proposal offers no funding for job creation, work or workfare programs, or new employment or training programs. States would be rewarded solely on the basis of declining SNAP caseloads.
In fiscal year (FY) 2010, four out of five SNAP households did not include anyone with an education beyond the high school level, and one-third of households did not include even a high school graduate. With unemployment still above seven percent—and more than 40 percent of the unemployed out-of-work for 26 weeks or longer—it is unlikely that SNAP recipients will find a good-paying job without gaining new skills.
SNAP E&T is one of the only federal programs specifically targeting very low-skilled, low-income individuals, providing them with access to the job search, work experience, and job training services they need to find and keep family-supporting jobs. In FY 2011, nearly 2.8 million individuals participated in SNAP E&T programs, including nearly 1.4 million who pursued a secondary diploma or GED. The House proposal does not provide any additional funds for SNAP E&T programs; it only threatens to take away funds that help SNAP recipients get the training and skills they need.
Realistically, it seems unlikely that even the most well-intentioned states could provide the kind of employment and training services that many low-skilled SNAP recipients need to succeed in the labor market under this proposal.
The current farm bill expires on September 30, and Congress must take action before then. However, the House and Senate have adopted widely divergent positions on both the farm and nutrition titles of the bill, and it is difficult to see how they can reach any sort of compromise between now and the end of the month, so it is unclear how they will proceed. National Skills Coalition will monitor this issue and provide additional updates as information becomes available.