Washington Watch: Farm Bill makes some changes to SNAP

Just before Christmas, President Donald Trump signed into law the 2018 Farm Bill. Critical for community college students, the $867 billion bill renews through 2023 the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and a range of other U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs.

At a time of growing awareness about hunger on community college campuses, and the development of numerous strategies to address it, the SNAP program has become more visible among community college leaders.

The Farm Bill was overwhelmingly bipartisan. It rejected the controversial expanded work requirements for SNAP recipients included in the House legislation. However, Trump has moved to impose the same policy administratively.

Strengthening training components

Importantly, the bill provides a modest increase in funding for state SNAP employment and training (E&T) programs. It also includes amendments intended to strengthen SNAP E&T, which helps states and other partners provide access to education and training for SNAP recipients. Many community colleges have used this authority to great effect.

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Increase state formula funding for administration of SNAP E&T programs (commonly referred to as “100 percent” grants) from $90 million to $103.9 million per year.
  • Support increased coordination between SNAP E&T and the workforce development system under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), including through a general requirement that E&T programs be implemented in consultation with the state workforce development board.
  • Require case management services as a component of all state SNAP E&T programs.
  • Establish a new category of eligible training program called “workforce partnerships,” which are training programs that are operated by either private employers or eligible training providers under WIOA, and which offer not less than 20 hours of training, work or experience for SNAP recipients.
  • Add supervised job search, apprenticeship and subsidized jobs as allowable elements of an E&T program.

What’s not included

The final bill did not significantly change the so-called “50-50” funding that many states and service providers have used to expand training programs for SNAP participants. It also did not include expanded funding for state pilot grants that was in the Senate version. Unfortunately, the bill lowers state authority to exempt SNAP recipients who are able-bodied adults without dependents (known as ABAWDs) from 15 percent of the state’s eligible caseload to 12 percent, although otherwise it largely maintains state authority around ABAWD waivers.

USDA may seek to amend state waiver authority through the regulatory process – the agency released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in April asking for comments on the current state waiver process, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has suggested that formal regulations come early this year.

In a Congress in which little key legislation was enacted, passage of the Farm Bill, which tends to draw support from across the political spectrum and did in this case as well, represents a major accomplishment.

About the Author

David Baime
is senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges.