Senate Farm Bill Would Strengthen SNAP, Support Work

By Nune Phillips

Updated on June 28, 2018

Note: The Senate farm bill was passed by a vote of 86 to 11 on June 28, 2018. Congress will next form a conference committee to address differences between the Senate farm bill and the deeply flawed House version. For more information and analysis, please visit CLASP's 2018 farm bill resource page.

On June 8, the Senate released the bipartisan Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the farm bill. The Senate farm bill would strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), ensuring millions of people are able to put food on the table and access pathways to good jobs. This is a stark contrast from the House farm bill, which would rip away SNAP from people in need.

The Senate bill would strengthen the program integrity of SNAP, improve technology, make certification easier for elderly and disabled people, and allow states to try out new ways of verifying eligibility. It would also better connect SNAP participants to training that leads to meaningful jobs.

SNAP enrollment has declined in recent years, in large part because many participants have found jobs and no longer need help. That’s exactly how the program is supposed to work. But more investment is needed to make that a reality for everyone. Many employed SNAP participants still don’t earn enough to feed their families, even when they have multiple jobs.

The Senate farm bill would maintain SNAP’s existing work requirements. Current law requires SNAP participants who are capable of working to seek and accept employment. It also requires them not to quit a job without good reason. Additionally, SNAP’s harsh 3-month time limit for unemployed (or underemployed), non-disabled adults without dependent children requires these individuals to engage in 20 hours per week in a narrowly defined set of activities in order to maintain access to food assistance.

States are also required to operate an Employment & Training (E&T) program, which is designed to increase employability and reduce the need for SNAP. The 2014 farm bill included $200 million for 10 SNAP E&T pilots, which are underway now and will tell us a lot about promising employment and training services.

Here are some ways the Senate bill would improve E&T and support alignment with other workforce programs:

  • Provides $185 million for new E&T pilots that target people with barriers to work. This includes people who are 50 and older, formerly incarcerated, participating in substance abuse treatment, homeless, or disabled.
  • Requires E&T programs to coordinate with employers and local workforce boards to align training and services with local labor market needs.
  • Requires E&T programs to include job search and at least one additional training activity since job search alone is ineffective at helping most low-income individuals find work that leads to economic security.
  • Supports expanded public-private partnerships with employers and nonprofits that offer quality work and training programs. These workforce partnerships give SNAP participants a way to meet the program’s participation requirements and access training programs that will help them obtain meaningful jobs.

Additionally, the Senate farm bill consolidates the E&T and time limit provisions, making it easier for states to navigate and implement the rules.

The Senate and House have offered two very different visions. The Senate farm bill would help hardworking people put food on the table and get better jobs. The House bill would kick people off SNAP and destroy their economic mobility. We urge Congress to strengthen SNAP and continue decades of bipartisanship by passing the Senate farm bill.