Feb 21, 2023

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The Importance of Funding SNAP E&T

by | Feb 21, 2023

In the United States, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides assistance to individuals and households experiencing food insecurity.  An additional component of SNAP includes the option for eligible participants to pursue employment and training opportunities, through a  program called SNAP E&T.  In Colorado, this particular program is called Employment First. 

Coloradans whose gross incomes are below 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL), and whose incomes are below 100% of FPL after deducting eligible housing, food, and childcare expenses, are eligible to receive SNAP. For example, an individual earning less than $1,064 per month after deducting eligible expenses may qualify for and receive SNAP benefits.  

The Employment First program is designed to prepare SNAP recipients for meaningful employment through work-related education, training activities, and work-based learning opportunities, along with job placement assistance and guidance.  The program also offers additional support services when funding is available. 

Able-bodied adults without dependents have historically been required to work a certain number of hours per week as a condition of receiving SNAP benefits. Such individuals may sign up for Employment First as one option for satisfying work requirements. 

 

Snap E&T history 

During the 2021 legislative session, House Bill 1270 was passed, appropriating $3 million to the Employment First Program. Expenses were matched by $3 million from federal funds, resulting in a total of $6 million.  The funding provided through HB21-1270 expanded the resources available to Employment First offices and third-party partners across the state. It increased the ability of these organizational partners to offer supportive services necessary for success including tools, work uniforms and clothing, vocational training costs, fingerprinting, transportation assistance, and dental costs, to name a few.  

These support services have proven crucial in preparing individuals and families living in poverty to address those immediate needs which often prevent them from pursuing skills training and employment, and thus perpetuate their inability to move forward.  

The funding from HB21-1270 also expanded these services to new counties that were not able to provide them in previous years.  Currently, 28 counties now offer these services, with the goal of making these opportunities available and accessible to as many of Colorado’s 64 counties as possible. 

 

Fast-forwarding to 2023… 

On January 30, Representative Mandy Lindsay and Senator Rhonda Fields introduced House Bill 23-1124, “Funding for Services for Colorado Employment First Participants.” This new bill would sustain funding for Colorado’s SNAP E&T program, albeit at a lower annual level of $1.5 million, to be matched with $1.5 million in federal funds each year. Just as with HB21-1270, Colorado Center on Law and Policy and the Skills2Compete Colorado coalition are actively advocating Colorado’s legislature for the passing of HB23-1124. 

As mentioned, Employment First currently serves Coloradans in only 28 of Colorado’s 64 counties. This bill would aim to expand the number of counties that offer these responsive services, as well as increase the capacity of third-party partners in local communities. 

The timing of HB23-1124, however, is critical in sustaining this life-changing program. The Public Health Emergency (PHE) is quickly coming to an end, with Colorado’s SNAP benefits scheduled to be reduced in March 2023, and SNAP work requirements (suspended during the PHE) being reinstated in May. 

On February 8, the House Committee on Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services passed the bill unanimously without amendments. Next, HB23-1124 faces House Appropriations. 

 

For more information about the core elements of this bill and some of the accomplishments achieved, here are additional resources: 

Click here to read the SNAP E&T Fact Sheet for HB23-1124.

Click here to read House Bill 21-1270 Overview.

 

HB23-1124 was postponed indefinitely during the 2023 Colorado Legislative Session.

Recent articles

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.