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House, Senate leaders release Farm Bill Compromise; Rejects harsh work requirements and increases training funding

  ·   By Kermit Kaleba
House, Senate leaders release Farm Bill Compromise; Rejects harsh work requirements and increases training funding

Last night, House and Senate leaders released the text of a compromise Farm Bill reauthorization package that would renew the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and a range of other programs under the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) through 2023. Critically, the bipartisan bill rejects expanded work requirements for SNAP recipients that had been included in the House proposal released in April, and provides a modest increase in funding for state SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) programs.

The compromise text is the culmination of lengthy negotiations by a formal conference committee to reconcile the House bill with a very different vision for SNAP outlined in the Senate’s bill, which was released in June and called for relatively modest changes to SNAP. National Skills Coalition and other national groups had strongly urged negotiators to reject the House approach and follow the Senate model in the final bill.

While not accepting the new work requirements proposed by the House, the conference report does include some amendments intended to strengthen SNAP E&T, which helps states and other partners provide access to education and training for SNAP recipients. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Increase state formula funding for administration of SNAP E&T programs (commonly referred to as “100 percent” grants) from $90 million to $103.9 per year;
  • Support increased coordination between SNAP E&T and the workforce development system under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), including through a general requirement that E&T programs be implemented in consultation with the state workforce development board
  • Require case management services to provided as a component of all state SNAP E&T programs
  • Establish a new category of eligible training program called “workforce partnerships,” which are training programs that are operated by either private employers or eligible training providers under WIOA, and which offer not less than 20 hours of training, work, or experience for SNAP recipients. The bill would also add supervised job search, apprenticeship, and subsidized jobs as allowable elements of an E&T program

 

The final bill does not make significant changes to the so-called “50-50” funding that many states and service providers have utilized in recent years to expand high quality training programs for SNAP participants. The bill does not include expanded funding for state pilot grants that had been included in the Senate version. The bill also lowers state authority to exempt SNAP recipients who are able-bodied adults without dependents (known as ABAWDs) from 15 percent of the eligible caseload to 12 percent, although it appears to otherwise largely maintain state authority around ABAWD waivers. There have been some indications that USDA may seek to amend state waiver authority through the regulatory process – the agency released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in April asking for comments on the current state waiver process, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has been quoted as suggesting that formal rules could be released early next year. National Skills Coalition submitted comments to the Department in April urging them to focus on expanding access to education and training rather than making it harder for SNAP recipients to succeed.

The conference report may go to the House floor as early as tomorrow or Thursday, with Senate passage expected to follow soon after. It is unclear whether President Trump will sign the bill – he had indicated earlier this year that he supported the House work requirements and wanted to see them included in the final package, but with time running out in this Congress it seems likely that he will ultimately approve the bill when it comes to his desk.

National Skills Coalition applauds House and Senate conferees for their hard work to preserve and strengthen both SNAP and SNAP E&T, and we call on lawmakers to vote yes on the conference report. We look forward to working with our state partners and other stakeholders to build on the investments included in this important bipartisan legislation.

Posted In: SNAP Employment and Training