New Seattle Jobs Initiative Report Offers a True Insider’s Guide to Creating a Strong State SNAP E&T

Posted June 4, 2014
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog New Seattle Jobs Initiative Report 2014

The Sup­ple­men­tal Nutri­tion Assis­tance Program’s Employ­ment & Train­ing (SNAP E&T) pro­gram was cre­at­ed in 1985 to help fam­i­lies receiv­ing SNAP (for­mer­ly food stamps) obtain unsub­si­dized employ­ment, increase their earn­ings and reduce reliance on pub­lic assis­tance through ser­vices such as job-search guid­ance, work expe­ri­ence and train­ing. While all states must admin­is­ter a SNAP E&T pro­gram, they have broad flex­i­bil­i­ty in decid­ing who can or must par­tic­i­pate and may admin­is­ter a vol­un­tary pro­gram. Many elect to oper­ate rel­a­tive­ly small pro­grams that have lit­tle impact. 

Over the last 10 years, the Foun­da­tion has sup­port­ed var­i­ous efforts to show SNAP E&T can be an effec­tive vehi­cle for help­ing fam­i­lies move out of pover­ty, includ­ing a SNAP E&T pilot pro­gram in the Seat­tle area as part of our Mak­ing Con­nec­tions ini­tia­tive. This small pilot launched in 2005 grew into Washington’s remark­ably suc­cess­ful Basic Food Employ­ment & Train­ing (BFET) pro­gram — the focus of a new report from the Seat­tle Jobs Ini­tia­tive, Wash­ing­ton State’s Basic Food Employ­ment & Train­ing Pro­gram, which high­lights lessons from the unique program’s devel­op­ment and ulti­mate expan­sion statewide. 

In a time of sig­nif­i­cant­ly dimin­ished pub­lic resources for work­force devel­op­ment pro­grams — par­tic­u­lar­ly tar­get­ing low-income, low-skilled indi­vid­u­als with mul­ti­ple bar­ri­ers to employ­ment — BFET demon­strates how, with care­ful plan­ning and a spir­it of inno­va­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion, SNAP E&T can be a vehi­cle through which states may scale effec­tive work­force pro­grams for the size­able, under­served and large­ly unskilled SNAP population.

As in many oth­er states, Wash­ing­ton had a SNAP E&T pro­gram lim­it­ed in scope and resources until 2004, when a small group of state gov­ern­ment, com­mu­ni­ty col­lege and com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tion lead­ers came togeth­er in Seat­tle to imag­ine how to use the pro­gram to bet­ter meet the needs of low-income, low-skilled res­i­dents for more edu­ca­tion and train­ing lead­ing to bet­ter-pay­ing jobs. Lit­tle did the group know that the mod­el that they were devel­op­ing — BFET — was some­thing that had nev­er before been attempt­ed. Nor did they fore­see that, in just eight years from its Octo­ber 2005 launch, BFET would grow from a $150,000 to a $29+ mil­lion pro­gram; from serv­ing the Seat­tle area exclu­sive­ly to serv­ing the entire state; and from serv­ing a few hun­dred to near­ly 30,000 indi­vid­u­als each year. 

Based on the first­hand knowl­edge of indi­vid­u­als close­ly involved in the con­cep­tion, devel­op­ment and oper­a­tion of BFET, Seat­tle Jobs Initiative’s report pro­vides an inside look at:

  • how a third-par­ty match SNAP E&T pro­gram, in which pro­gram ser­vices and match­ing dol­lars are being pro­vid­ed by con­tract­ed col­lege and com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions rather than the state, operates;
  • how BFET moved from ini­tial con­cep­tion to pilot launch;
  • the menu of employ­ment, train­ing and sup­port ser­vices that BFET pro­vides to participants;
  • the struc­ture, man­age­ment and scal­ing of the pro­gram; and
  • best prac­tices from the BFET pro­gram and rec­om­men­da­tions for oth­er states con­sid­er­ing expand­ing their SNAP E&T programs.

We hope this report serves as a resource to fed­er­al, state and local pol­i­cy­mak­ers as the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture seeks to imple­ment the pro­vi­sions of the 2014 farm bill and engage states in test­ing strate­gies to help SNAP par­tic­i­pants get jobs, increase their earn­ings and reduce their reliance on pub­lic assistance.

To learn more, check out the report. For inquiries, con­tact David Kaz, direc­tor of pol­i­cy and com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Seat­tle Jobs Initiative.

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