03.20.15

Leahy: Vermont Nets $9 M For Innovative Pilot Program Pairing SNAP With Jobs Training

(FRIDAY, March 20, 2015) -- Vermont will be among the first states in the country to pilot a program designed to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-eligible (3SquaresVT) participants find new jobs and develop new skills for the workforce, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced Friday.  The State of Vermont community partners across Vermont are being awarded $9 million in competitive federal grants to fund the pilot program and evaluate the results, so the best approaches can later be tried in other states.  Vermont is one of only ten projects selected across the nation in this competitive process.      

Leahy said:  “Vermont’s selection as one of only ten states in this pilot project is a great credit to our state.  It’s the result of thoughtful, methodical work on this application by the State of Vermont and these community partners.  By applying practical help to lift Vermonters out of poverty, it will change lives one by one, family by family and community by community.  This support will make a particular difference in the struggles faced by SNAP participants who are homeless, suffering from substance abuse or who are struggling to return to the workforce.”

Vermont’s pilot program, Jobs for Independence, was developed by the Vermont Agency of Human Services (AHS) Department of Children and Families (DCF) as a cross agency approach to help increase the earned income of SNAP participants and ultimately, the reduction or elimination of individuals’ dependency on SNAP benefits.  Service providers will work together to provide post-secondary education and training, financial literacy and job placement, as well as address significant barriers to employment and financial security often faced by the SNAP recipients.  Comprehensive supports for increasing access to high-quality childcare, transportation, transitional housing support and job-retention will also provide participants with the necessary tools to successfully transition to financial instability.  Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, was instrumental in including the pilot program in the 2014 Farm Bill, and this week $200 million in competitive awards to fund and evaluate pilot projects in 10 states was announced.

Leahy has long been a champion as well of the SNAP program.  Vermont currently provides about 87,000 Vermonters with SNAP benefits.  Studies have shown that SNAP has an economic multiplier effect; every dollar in new SNAP benefits results in $1.80 in total economic activity. Leahy said that pairing this already successful safety net with a jobs-driven approach to help Vermonters “makes good, practical sense.”

“This is innovative, this is practical, and this is what I had in mind when we included this program and these funds in last year’s Farm Bill,” said Leahy.

Some of the state agencies and community partners involved in the Jobs for Independence Pilot project include the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of Corrections (DOC), and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), the Community College of Vermont (CCV), Capstone Community Action, (Capstone) and other community action agencies and nonprofit organizations throughout Vermont.

Deputy Commissioner of Economic Services Division of the Vermont DCF Sean Brown said:  “Vermont is pleased and excited to be one of ten states recently awarded a USDA federal grant to implement employment and training services for SNAP participants.  With input and collaboration between state agencies, employers, and nonprofit organizations, these funds will  be utilized to bolster the efficacy of existing employment support services, and provide novel solutions to problems facing job-seekers.  By taking a holistic approach to assessing an individual’s unique barriers to employment, the State of Vermont and its community partners look forward to helping Vermont’s most vulnerable citizens obtain the skills and support they need for long-term employment, higher wages, and overall self-sufficiency.”

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez Friday are formally announcing the nationwide grantees, including Vermont, who will receive a total of $200 million.  The full list of grantees is listed below.

  • Fresno County Department of Social Services, Calif., $12.2 million.
  • Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, $18.8 million.
  • Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, $15 million.
  • Illinois Department of Human Services, $21.9 million.
  • Kansas Department for Children and Families, $3.4 million.
  • Kentucky Department for Community Based Services, $20 million.
  • Mississippi Department of Human Services, $20.5 million.
  • Virginia Department of Social Services, $22.3 million.
  • Vermont Department for Children and Families, $9 million.
  • Washington Department of Social and Health Services, $22 million.

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