Testimony of Ed Lazere, Executive Director, At the Performance Oversight Hearing on the Department of Human Services

Chairman Graham and other members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today.  My name isEd Lazere, and I am the executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.  DCFPI engages in research and public education on the fiscal and economic health of the District of Columbia, with a particular emphasis on policies that affect low- and moderate-income residents.  

I would like to focus my testimony today on an opportunity the District has to expand access to employment-related education and training by taking better advantage of the employment and training component of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the food stamp program). The SNAP Employment and Training program (SNAP E&T) provides federal matching funds to support workforce development efforts, but the District is not taking full advantage of this opportunity.  This was the subject of a December 2011 policy brief from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, which is attached. 

DC operates a small and somewhat isolated SNAP E&T program, drawing down less than $1 million in federal fund.  With unemployment in the District still on the rise, efforts to expand access to education and training are extremely important.  While the Department of Human Services appears open to efforts to expand use of this resource, the agency has limited staff to implement and develop these plans, especially with much of the ESA staff focused, appropriately, on TANF re-design efforts. 

SNAP E&T provides federal funding to cover 50 percent of the costs of a wide array of services intended to improve employment for SNAP participants, including job search assistance, GED preparation, community college tuition and materials, job skills training, counseling, and supportive services such as child care and transportation.  The District and the states can receive SNAP E&T funds to support services operated by a variety of government agencies ‘ such as the Department of Employment Services and the Department of Human Services ‘ and also to help nonprofits expand their education and training efforts.  

Under federal rules, SNAP E&T can be used to serve SNAP recipients other than those also receiving TANF cash assistance.  This means that the program can serve low-income single and married adults without children, non-custodial parents, and parents caring for children if they are not on TANF.  This is likely to include a large share of DC’s 140,000 SNAP recipients.

To read the full testimony, click here.