Robust Training and Employment Services Are Proven Effective for SNAP Recipients

All states are required to operate an for people who receive nutritional assistance under SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). However, the limited amount of dedicated federal funds states receive for these SNAP E&T programs is not nearly enough to serve all SNAP recipients who are unemployed or under-employed. A report recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) highlights best practices and opportunities for states to establish robust SNAP E&T programs.

The report features proven approaches for equipping people with the skills and education needed to obtain employment and improve long-term earning potential. Based on a wide range of research and evaluations, the most successful programs are those that include client assessment, barrier reduction, integrate credentialing, and incorporate market-driven skill development. The infrastructure and administration needed to operate such programs, however, can be extensive. FNS encourages states to collaborate and coordinate with existing systems operated by local and state entities and community colleges to maximize the services offered and take advantage of existing funding streams.

Some states have opted for low-touch, job-search only programs because they are easier to administer and require fewer resources. While these may provide immediate employment outcomes, research shows that they have little long-term effect on earnings and provide minimal benefit for those with the most barriers to consistent employment. The FNS report features the efforts by some states to serve SNAP clients with robust training, employment, and workforce development services. These states build on their E&T allotment through investments of state or third-party funds which allow them to draw down additional federal funds. These states deliver services through partnerships and coordination with workforce agencies, community colleges, and community-based organizations.

States face competing demands for use of their SNAP E&T funds. Certain recipients (so-called “able-bodied adults without dependents” – ABAWDs), are limited to 3 months of SNAP benefits in every 36 month period unless they meet a strict set of participation requirements. However, states are not required to offer a qualifying activity to everyone subject to the time limit, and most do not. States should commit to developing meaningful SNAP E&T activities at a scale that can include all people who wish to participate.

Some states operate “mandatory” SNAP E&T programs that can cause clients not participating to lose their nutrition benefits. These programs place the most vulnerable recipients at risk, increase administrative burden, and are nearly always low-intensity job search programs that have little chance of improving long-term employment outcomes. States should instead spend their limited SNAP E&T funds on voluntary programs that address employment barriers and provide meaningful training for credentials valued by employers. Moreover, the evidence proves that such robust programs are the most effective at getting SNAP recipients onto a career track with jobs that pay family-sustaining wages.