Up to $200 million in competitive grants is available for state SNAP agencies to design and conduct employment and training pilot projects to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants find jobs and increase their earnings, the USDA said Monday.
A portion of these funds will be used to fund an independent evaluation of the E&T pilots. The solicitation for the evaluation contract was also released Monday.
"Many SNAP participants are struggling to find work, and a large percentage already have a job but are getting paid so little that they still need assistance to put food on the table," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
Opportunities to obtain new job skills help recipients transition out of the program, Vilsack said.
"The grants … will allow us to test innovative approaches to give folks the opportunity to get training, get a good job and build stronger futures for their families," Vilsack noted.
Authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, the grants will fund up to 10 pilot projects to test a variety of methods designed to enhance employability, increase the earnings of SNAP work registrants, and help people transition from the program.
USDA intends to test a wide array of approaches, including those focused on education and training, rehabilitative services for individuals with barriers to employment, rapid attachment to work, and other strategies. USDA is particularly interested in pilots that target hard-to-serve populations, and test job-driven training strategies that include work-based learning or career pathway approaches or utilize strong public-private partnerships.
USDA is looking for states to submit proposals that target populations indicated by the Farm Bill, including individuals with low skills, able-bodied adults without dependents, and recipients who are working in very low-wage or part-time jobs.
The grants will be distributed across a range of geographic areas, including rural and urban parts of the country. The rigorous, independent evaluation of these projects will help USDA to identify which approaches are most effective for the diverse populations served by SNAP E&T programs.
In designing pilot project proposals, USDA encourages states to engage employers up front and use data on in-demand jobs in order to open doors for SNAP recipients who are able to work.
"SNAP E&T programs should be designed to address not only the needs of SNAP participants but also the needs of employers," said Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. "These programs should support the economy by preparing SNAP participants for available, in-demand jobs and careers."
Grant applications are due Nov. 24, 2014. All 53 state agencies currently administering SNAP are eligible to apply. Awards will be announced in February 2015.
The Request for Applications is available on www.grants.gov and on the FNS website. The grants will fund a performance period of three years and USDA expects projects to be operational by Oct. 1, 2015. Proposals to evaluate the impact of the pilots are due Oct. 1, 2014.