By Sue Philpott, Manager, San Bernardino County DCSS
Recently the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) Region IX office hosted a webinar featuring “SNAP E&T and Child Support Collaboration.” The presenters were from the Washington State Department of Social & Health Services, Division of Child Support (WA DCS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), and community partners from Father Matters in Arizona and Sound Outreach in Washington. WA DCS shared their collaboration with SNAP E&T opportunities around the State; FNS and the community partners shared how they developed and implemented a reciprocal partnership between SNAP E&T (Employment and Training) and Child Support Services.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education & Training (SNAP E&T) is a skills and job training program administered by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It was most recently funded as part of the 2014 Farm Bill. Eligible individuals must be receiving CalFresh in California, but not receiving cash assistance. Counties are given the option to offer an E&T program, and currently twenty-six counties participate.
There is a great amount of flexibility in administering these programs. In addition to basic employment skills and vocational training, the program can assist with transportation costs, childcare, legal aid, housing stabilization, basic literacy skills, and substance abuse and mental health components. In addition to the 100% funding of these services, E&T programs can align with other funding streams such as Social Venture Funds, Community Development Block Grants, and non-profit organizations to take advantage of the federal level 50/50 reimbursement funds that are also available.
Several states have experienced remarkable results through their use of SNAP E&T funds. In Maricopa County, Arizona, “Father Matters.org” is a community development organization committed to building stronger, healthier communities by assisting men to become more effective, more active, and thus more engaged in their role as fathers. Father Matters established an MOU with Arizona DCSS as part of a collaborative effort to help shared customers achieve self-sufficiency by increasing their overall earning capacity. This is accomplished by helping identify and eliminate barriers to obtaining and maintaining employment. The program teaches important skills such as personal financial planning and budgeting.
Similarly, in Washington (WA) State, the “Resources to Initiate Successful Employment” (RISE) Program was created in December 2015 as a three-year pilot in four key counties (King, Pierce, Yakima, and Spokane). RISE is part of a national study on the effectiveness of SNAP E&T programs that will inform policy makers about work programs when considering future Farm Bills. The program’s target populations are the long-term unemployed, homeless, English as a Second Language (ESL) participants, Veterans, and non-custodial parents. WA DCSS created the “Alternative Solutions Program,” which is an internal case management team designed to work hand in hand with the RISE program. The intent is to provide comprehensive poverty informed case management. This includes more compassionate customer service, case insulation from adverse enforcement actions, structured education, and accessibility to additional community resource partners.
It is estimated that by 2020, two-thirds of all jobs will require post-secondary education and training beyond high school. There is currently a gap in the availability of middle-skill workers for the available number of middle-skill jobs. Now more than ever, it is critical that local child support agencies (LCSA) take advantage of this largely untapped resource. By partnering with existing CalFresh E&T program providers, we can assist non-custodial parents in obtaining more sustainable employment, gaining relevant job skills needed to operate in today’s market and earn higher wages. E&T programs can even be tailored to ensure more robust job training for ex-offenders. As we move our struggling non-custodial parents towards work, career paths, and self-sufficiency, their families ultimately benefit by receiving more consistent child support payments.