USDA announces employment project grants to reduce SNAP cost

By Sarah Gonzalez

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ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 26, 2014- USDA is making $200 million in grant money available for state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) agencies to conduct employment and training pilot projects to help SNAP participants find jobs.

Together we can feed the Bees"

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement Monday at the Employment Center in Arlington, Virginia, which he said reports an 80 percent placement rate in finding jobs for SNAP participants.

“One of most effective ways to reduce the cost of SNAP is to help folks find good jobs,” Vilsack said, adding that the grant project would “eliminate costs from SNAP the right way, as opposed to cutting people from the program.” He said the competitive grant system is an alternative to cost-cutting measures proposed during the farm bill debate that would have further reduced federal funding to SNAP. 

USDA provides $400 million every year to states for employment training for SNAP beneficiaries. The competitive grant program will help the agency find the most effective programs for all 50 states and help to find “better use of the $400 million we are currently spending on employment and training,” Vilsack said.

As part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the grants will fund up to 10 pilot projects to test methods designed to increase employability and help people transition out of the welfare program. States can make joint applications, so more than 10 states could benefit depending on the “creativity” of the applicants, Vilsack said. 

Grant applications are due Nov. 24 and awards will be announced in February. The grants will fund the programs for three years and USDA expects projects to be operational by Oct. 1, 2015.

Of the $200 million made available, $35 million will be set aside for project evaluation. Vilsack said he expects experts from state universities and other third parties to conduct evaluations that provide sufficient data. Proposals to evaluate the impact of the pilots are due Oct. 1 of this year.

Vilsack said USDA will look for pilot programs that use strong partnerships to operate, focus on the long-term unemployed, and use a structured method to match applicants to available jobs. 

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