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WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Obama Administration announced the start of a new era of federal support to help food stamp recipients train for skilled jobs that can support themselves and their families. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service today awarded $165 million in grants to 10 states as part of a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment & Training (SNAP E&T) pilot program authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The program is intended to test strategies for helping SNAP participants find jobs, grow their earnings, and reduce their reliance on public assistance.
The announcement of the awards was made by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Labor Secretary Tom Perez. The selected proposals came from California (Fresno), Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington. New investments in education and training for SNAP recipients are included in the state proposals.
“States are clearly recognizing that job-directed skills, combined with other critical supports, are an effective pathway for people to move off assistance and toward self-sufficiency. We hope some of the remaining states that did not receive demonstration grants will still consider taking advantage of allowances under the SNAP E&T program to implement such efforts on their own,” said Andy Van Kleunen, CEO of National Skills Coalition. “The joint commitment of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Labor Secretary Perez to align efforts across their two agencies to help more SNAP recipients access job-driven training and land good jobs is unprecedented in the history of the food stamp program.”
Recent changes to the SNAP E&T program not only maintain federal reimbursements for a portion of in-state expenditures on adult education and training, but also establish new provisions that can make those investments easier to align with employment opportunities. Starting this spring, National Skills Coalition will partner with the Seattle Jobs Initiative—a nationally recognized expert in SNAP E&T programming, and one of the key developers of Washington state’s highly regarded Basic Food Employment and Training (BFET) program—to provide technical assistance to states looking to develop or expand skills-centered SNAP E&T programs even if they have not received a pilot grant.
States that did not apply for or receive a pilot grant can still use SNAP E&T formula funds to implement programs on their own. If properly structured, they can also apply for 50 percent reimbursement grants (“50-50 funds”) for additional non-federal, in-state expenditures on training, books and supplies, and support services like childcare and transportation that can help improve recipients’ employability and keep them on the job.
Starting this spring, National Skills Coalition will partner with the Seattle Jobs Initiative to provide technical assistance to states looking to develop or expand skills-centered SNAP E&T programs, even if they have not received a pilot grant. To kick off this work, we will host a SNAP E&T webinar in April, which will also reference a recent report from Workforce Data Quality Campaign on state best practices for collecting and using SNAP E&T data.