Over the past decade, there have been significant expansions in policies that support low-income working families, such as refundable tax credits, health insurance, child support enforcement, child care subsidies, and nutritional supports.  These programs help hard working families who struggle to meet basic needs due to low wages, irregular hours and lack of benefits. However, this safety net is incomplete.   CLASP advocates for improvements in individual programs and in the service delivery system to help ensure low-income families have the support they need to stay employed and provide for their families.

SNAP Employment and Training Pilots an Opportunity for Innovative Strategies

By Helly Lee

Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) posted their Request for Application (RFA) for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment and Training (SNAP E&T) Pilots. Passed earlier this year, the 2014 Farm Bill reauthorization includes $200 million for the creation and evaluation of three-year pilot projects testing innovative SNAP E&T strategies in up to 10 states. Approximately $165 million will be awarded to the pilot projects, with grants ranging between $5 million and $25 million.

The RFA solicits applications from any of the 53 State agencies (including the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands) that administer SNAP and are interested in competing for funding. State agencies may apply on behalf of one or more county-administered SNAP agencies; they may also submit multiple applications that propose different project ideas.

The pilots are intended to build upon and enhance existing SNAP E&T activities. States must commit to at least the same level of funding for their SNAP E&T program as they did in Fiscal Year 2013 for each year of the pilot. States must also commit to cooperating with an evaluation, which will be conducted by a contractor selected through a separate request for proposals.  As CLASP has strongly advocated, the RFA also requires that states collaborate with workforce and other job training programs in the state and local area.

State SNAP agencies have until September 26,, 2014 to submit a letter of intent to apply for the pilots. The final application must be submitted by November 24, 2014. FNS will announce grantees by February 23, 2015, and the winners will be expected to have programs operational by October 2015

These pilots will allow states to develop and highlight innovative SNAP E&T models that help SNAP participants secure good jobs that reduce their need for benefits. Since the Farm Bill’s passage, CLASP has been encouraging interested states and advocates to consider promising strategies they may want to pilot and lay the groundwork for  potential partnerships among state workforce agencies, community colleges, and local community-based organizations. We have also highlighted innovative strategies that are already being implemented in Washington and Minnesota.

To learn more, read CLASP’s updated brief. We will continue to engage stakeholders to support innovative partnerships between SNAP and workforce programs.  We must make the most of this unique opportunity to help eligible SNAP participants get jobs and increase their earnings.

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