SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) Characteristics Study: Final Report

Publisher: Alexandria, VA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service
Oct 31, 2017
Authors
Gretchen Rowe, Elizabeth Brown, and Brian Estes

Key Findings:

  • About one-third of work registrants and E&T participants were employed at the time of the survey. Another 10 percent of respondents had never been employed. Work registrants employed part time tended to work fewer hours than E&T participants, but tended to hold their jobs longer. E&T participants were slightly more likely to have graduated high school.
  • A small percentage of each group held jobs that fell into the top five most in demand occupations in the area. E&T providers suggested that the SNAP participants most needed basic skills and soft skills training to become employable in the local area.
  • More than a quarter of both work registrants and E&T participants reported three or more barriers to obtaining and retaining employment. The commonly reported barriers were health issues, transportation issues, lack of education, and caring for a family member with health issues.
  • Overall, E&T participants typically participated in job search or assessment activities through E&T programs. Although support services were very important to E&T participants, only a small number reported having received those services compared to the number of providers that reported offering them. Similarly, few E&T participants indicated that they received a certification, license, or degree through the program, although a much higher percentage of providers reported that they offered and participants earned them.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which served almost 46 million people in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, is a critical safety net for many families and individuals experiencing difficulties in obtaining adequate nutrition. Although SNAP, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), is focused on providing nutrition assistance, for decades the program also has offered Employment and Training (E&T) programs to improve the economic self-sufficiency of SNAP recipients and reduce their need for assistance.

States are required to administer a SNAP E&T program; however, only a small percentage of SNAP recipients participate in such a program. Almost two-thirds of SNAP participants are children (44 percent), elderly adults (9 percent), or have a disability (10 percent) and thus are exempt from SNAP work requirements, which include registering for work at an appropriate employment office, participating in an employment and training program if assigned by a state agency, and accepting an offer of suitable employment. There are additional Federal exemptions for adults who are already working or caring for small children or an incapacitated adult, and States also may further exempt individuals from participating in an E&T program. Of the 47 million people who received SNAP benefits in FY 2013, 13.3 million registered for work and about 629,000 participated in E&T programs.

There has been a growing interest in SNAP E&T expansion in the last several years. The Agricultural Act of 2014 (“Farm Bill”) mandated the testing of innovative strategies to connect more SNAP participants to employment and required additional reporting by States on E&T (Agricultural Act of 2014). In addition, the number of Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) national and regional SNAP E&T staff has increased in the last two years, and they are working with States to develop, improve, and expand SNAP E&T programs. Due to these efforts, States’ E&T programs have evolved considerably in the recent years, even from the beginning to the end of this study, creating challenges for measuring and understanding the characteristics of programs nationally. At the same time, there are no nationwide data on the characteristics of SNAP work registrants or E&T participants, and there is a lack of up-to-date research on SNAP E&T programs and populations.

This study provides a nationally representative sample of work registrants and E&T participants that allows us to identify the characteristics of registrants and participants, the challenges they face, and the services available to them. This information will help FNS understand how these programs serve clients, the skills needed by participants, and whether current programs meet their needs.