In Focus: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Sep 2, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

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.

Jun 30, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

TANF, SNAP Improvements Come to New York City

By Lavanya Mohan and Elizabeth Lower-Basch

In May, Steven Banks, the new Commissioner under Mayor de Blasio of the Human Resource Administration (HRA), the city’s social services agency,  announced key initiatives that will improve access to income supports and training, thereby reducing barriers to self-sufficiency for poor people. In the past, New York City has pioneered innovative anti-poverty programs, such as a pilot that expands the Earned Income Tax credit (EITC) for low-income childless workers, including non-custodial parents.  However, the city has not previously focused on improving access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

One of these key HRA initiatives is accepting a federal waiver to ease restrictions for receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) due to high unemployment rates. Without the federal waiver, ABAWDs are subject to strict eligibility rules – only receiving SNAP benefits for three months out of every three years if they are not employed at least 20 hours per week or in a qualifying work activity (for more information, see SNAP Works: SNAP Work Requirements and Time Limits). Childless workers, including non-custodial parents, often do not qualify for any other safety net benefits. The change in rules will affect 40,000 SNAP recipients in New York City who fall within this category. 

Another important reform that HRA plans to adopt will allow TANF recipients the opportunity to meet their work requirements by attending school leading to a four-year college degree.  This does not remove the time limit on full-time education and training, but lifts the arbitrary limit on the type of degrees that may be counted. TANF recipients will also be able to count school, homework and work-study hours in their employment plan. This reflects a corresponding change in the state rules passed as part of the New York State budget earlier this year.

Along with these reforms, additional measures aim to improve agency follow-up and engagement with SNAP applicants and recipients.  The final approved budget met HRA’s request of $9.7 billion, an increase of $195 million from the previous year. The budget will also provide universal free school meals for all students at public middle schools in New York City.  CLASP applauds these efforts that decrease barriers poor individuals face as they strive to secure employment and become self-sufficient.

Jun 6, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Summer Nutrition Programs Heating Up

By Helly Lee

As children, many of us looked forward to summer breaks from school as a time for spending long days in the sun with our friends and family.  However, for millions of American children, summer can mean losing access to the regular meals that they have during the school year.  A recent report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) reiterates the importance of summer nutrition programs such as the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) because they serve millions of low-income children each year during these summer months.  These programs provide nutritious meals for low-income children who may otherwise go hungry in the summer months when they are not in school.

The report reveals that in 2013, the Summer Nutrition Programs grew to serve nearly 3 million children, an increase of 161,000 children from 2012 and the largest percentage increase since 2003.  This participation growth in 2013 can largely be attributed to the commitment that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made to prioritize participation in summer nutrition programs.  In partnership with key nutrition advocates, USDA’s goal of increasing the number of meals served by 5 million from the previous year was surpassed by an additional 2 million (7 million more meals were served in the summer of 2013 than in 2012).

While this is great news that more children who need access to summer nutrition are using these programs, there’s more to be done to improve the programs to serve even more children and some harder to reach populations. The programs served millions more in 2013, but they still only reached 1 in 7 children who needed summer meals, according to the FRAC report.

Nutrition is vital to the cognitive and physical health and development of children.  Children need nutrition to learn in and out school, and a summer break is not an exception for when nutrition is a necessity.  Research has shown that well fed-children tend to be healthier overall and are sick less often, have fewer developmental problems, and have lower obesity rates.  Ensuring that children continue to receive the nutrition they need in the summer months will help them to come back to school in the fall healthy and ready to learn.

The forthcoming reauthorization of child nutrition programs, expected in 2015, provides Congress the opportunity to further strengthen a number of vital nutrition programs including summer feeding programs.  Members of Congress have already started to introduce bills that would improve these programs.  These include Senator Murray’s Stop Child Summer Hunger Act which would provide families with children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card for the purchase of food during summer months and Representative Dina Titus’ Helping Hungry Students Learn Act.  These and other proposals leading up to reauthorization will be critical in setting the stage for 2015.

School may be letting out soon, but the heat is on to ensure that millions of children do not go hungry during the summer months.

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