USDA Wants States To Innovate In Job Training They Provide For People On Food Assistance

$200M Has Been Offered To At Least 10 States


The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering $200 million in grants to at least 10 states for for developing innovative programs to help people who receive food assistance find work.

According to the USDA, almost 857,000 Wisconsin residents received monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in 2013. Those SNAP participants have access to state employment and training (also known as E&T) programs to help them develop job skills and find work.

With these new grants, the USDA wants to encourage states to think differently about those E&T programs. USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon said the department wants to figure out what programs across the country are best preparing people for the job market.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“We really will be looking for projects that are focused on demand, jobs that the economy is seeking, rather than what we call at times ‘train and pray,’” said Concannon. “We’re looking for projects that will result in placement in the economy.”

Hunger Task Force executive director Sherrie Tussler said Wisconsin should apply for the grant so it has more leeway on how it spends program money. In January, many Wisconsin SNAP recipients will have to work 20 hours per week or participate in E&T programs if they cannot find a job.

“That’s that crazy part about this food stamp employment and training program, is that you’re supposed to be in training and you have to participate in training to get your food stamps, but no one pays you,” Tussler said. “So I don’t know how they think people are going to live — make their rent payments or their utility bills — without any wages.”

A Wisconsin Health Services Department spokeswoman said that DHS will work with other state agencies to decide whether or not to apply for the grant program.