An Offer Too Good to Give Up: How DC Can Access Federal Funds for Job Training
The District has a great opportunity to access federal job training funds to help DC residents who are eager to go to work or get a better job. It comes, of all places, from the federal food stamp program, now known as SNAP.
The SNAP Employment and Training program provides federal funds to cover half of the costs of a wide array of employment-related services for people who get food stamp benefits. It can support programs operated directly by the DC government, but it even can bring federal funds to non-profit training providers to enhance their services. SNAP E&T can support education and training for a large share of DC’s low-income population, because most low-income residents receive SNAP food benefits.
Until recently, the District has barely made use of this resource. This year, the city started to take greater advantage of SNAP E&T, but it could be doing even more. For example, the Fiscal Year 2102 budget includes $4.6 million in local funds for adult job training. If that were made part of SNAP E&T, it could be expanded to as much as $9.2 million with federal funds.
A new policy brief from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute highlights ways the District can use the SNAP Employment and Training Program to expand workforce development. With DC’s unemployment still higher than in the peak of the official recession, accessing more federal funds for job training should be at the top of the city’s New Year’s resolutions list.
SNAP E&T doesn’t require the city to re-invent the wheel by creating new programs. The city can incorporate or coordinate existing workforce development programs into SNAP E&T — by identifying participants who receive SNAP benefits and making sure the education or training program is part of an employment plan for that person — and then accessing federal funds to support program costs. To be sure, doing this creates new administrative requirements, but it seems worth it.
DC already is taking some steps in the right direction. Last spring, the District provided SNAP employment and training funds to a number of non-profit training providers for the first time. The city also has raised the possibility of partnering with groups getting workforce development funds from Wal-Mart, bringing SNAP E&T funds to enhance the private funds. And the DC Department of Human Services has initiated efforts to coordinate some programs operated by the Department of Employment Services through SNAP E&T.
These efforts are promising and should be pursued fully. At a time when it is hard to look to the federal government to expand important services, the SNAP Employment and Training program is a precious gift.
DCFPI’s policy brief can be found here.