Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today that Virginia has been awarded a $22.3 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a pilot program to help increase job skills training for SNAP recipients.
“I’m proud that Virginia has received this grant award, which will allow my administration to help transition SNAP recipients to the workforce and improve workforce development training. Both are key components in my plan to build a new Virginia economy,” Governor McAuliffe said. “It’s essential that Virginians be trained and ready to work in high-demand fields. This grant will help advance my goal to have Virginians attain 50,000 workforce credentials, licenses and degrees during my term.”
The grants are intended to help states test new programs that put participants in SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – back to work. In Virginia and across the country, SNAP helps low-income families obtain access to nutritious foods and serves as the first line of defense against hunger. Last month, 856,500 Virginians received SNAP benefits.
Strengthening programs like SNAP and tying them to pathways to economic and educational success has been a key priority of Governor McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, the Chair of the Commonwealth Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide.
“The purpose of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has always been to help families through tough times until they can get back on their feet and back to work,” said First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe. “This exciting new grant will give us the opportunity to demonstrate new, innovative pathways to help Virginians develop critical skills for high demand job markets.”
Thirty-five states applied for the $200 million in grants made available through the 2014 farm bill, and Virginia is one of 10 states that were successful. The grants will fund pilot programs for three years. The pilot programs will be evaluated by two independent research organizations, Mathematica Policy Research and MDRC, to identify those programs that are most effective and could be replicated around the country.
The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) partnered with the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) to apply for the grant. Virginia’s pilot program will allow 3,760 eligible SNAP-Employment and Training program recipients to earn workforce credentials – such as certifications, apprenticeships, occupational licenses and college certificates -- to work in high-demand occupations. Virginia’s pilot program will have three approaches: a hybrid online learning lab with instructor-led workshops, job readiness and training leading to a certificate or certification, and a longer-term integrated basic education and training program, all of which draw from evidence-based strategies.
This model builds on a successful program that VDSS has been funding at three Virginia community colleges for more than 10 years. The grant will allow the program to expand to include a total of seven community colleges: Danville, Patrick Henry, Piedmont, Southside Virginia, Tidewater, Thomas Nelson and Virginia Highlands.
Each program will be supported by intensive case management and advising.The pilot aligns with specific strategies in the state workforce system plan to broaden the use of career and college coaching, expand interest in careers in targeted industry sectors and increase the attainment of Career Readiness Certificates and other credentials. The program targets SNAP recipients ages 18-49 who are without a high school credential or those who have a high school diploma or GED, but are not college ready.
“I congratulate VDSS and VCCS on working together to find an innovative way to help our SNAP recipients and our workforce,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Bill Hazel. “It’s exciting to see new pathways to help people learn the skills that can move them into good jobs.”
“This grant will expand proven, evidence-based, employment and training opportunities for SNAP recipients across the Commonwealth,” said Margaret Schultze, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services. “It will ensure that they have the skills they need to compete for jobs that give them a path to increased earnings and reduce their dependence on public assistance.”
“Helping people find and keep good jobs is the right way to transition recipients off of SNAP assistance and ultimately reduce program costs. These pilots will give USDA and our state partners the opportunity to explore innovative, cost-effective ways to help SNAP recipients find and keep gainful employment in order to build a stronger future for their families,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, announcing the grant awards during a visit to Gwinnett Technical College in Georgia. “This initiative is a reflection of USDA’s full commitment to ensuring that SNAP recipients who are able to work can put food on the table while they get the skills they need to compete for jobs in a global economy. Helping people find good jobs is a far better strategy for reducing food assistance spending than across the board cuts.”
Other states receiving the grant are Kentucky, Georgia, California, Delaware, Kansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Vermont and Washington.