PA 08-161—sSB 344

Select Committee on Children

Appropriations Committee

Human Services Committee

Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING THE FOOD STAMP EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING PROGRAM AND THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE CHILD POVERTY AND PREVENTION COUNCIL

SUMMARY: This act requires the Department of Social Services (DSS) to administer a food stamp employment and training (FSE&T) program authorized under the federal Food Stamp Act of 1977, which DSS currently administers on a voluntary basis. It requires DSS to provide employment and training activities, support services, and other programs and services for food stamp recipients. DSS must follow federal law and regulations concerning formula grant expenditures and design the program to maximize the state's eligibility for federal matching funds to the fullest extent permitted.

The act specifies how federal matching funds must be used and distributed and requires DSS to select qualified providers, including community collaboratives, to participate in the program. By law, entities that qualify for federal matching funds include state agencies, local governments, nonprofit entities, institutions of higher education, and other FSE&T providers that offer approved employment and training activities.

The act requires DSS to file annual reports for six years, beginning January 15, 2009, with the Human Services and Appropriations committees and the Child Poverty and Prevention Council. Reports must include the amount of federal matching funds the program generated and amounts (1) used for DSSoperating and administrative expenses, (2) distributed to providers, and (3) distributed to community collaboratives. They must also include how recipients used the funds, including whom they served, and describe outcomes using a results-based accountability framework.

Finally it authorizes DSS, in conjunction with Child Poverty and Prevention Council agency members, to work with local governments, institutions of higher education, community action agencies, and other entities to continue and expand efforts, within available appropriations, to enroll people in the traditional food stamp program and to enroll eligible food stamp recipients in education, employment, and training activities.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2008

USE OF FEDERAL MATCHING FUNDS

For FY 09, the act authorizes DSS to use a portion of the federal matching funds it receives, on an as-needed basis, for operating expenses and to employ one person to work exclusively on administering the FSE&T program's matching funds provisions. After FY 09, DSS may use the funds as necessary to operate and administer the program.

The balance of the funds must be used for poverty reduction strategies. Under the act, these are coordinated sets of actions, including:

1. job search and work experience;

2. education and training, including adult basic education, high school equivalency preparation, adult literacy, vocational training, and post-secondary education;

3. tuition payment;

4. case management;

5. related services that improve employability;

6. income safety net services;

7. child care during work and job training;

8. family support; and

9. reentry programs.

The strategies must be based on best practices and aimed at reducing poverty or the risk of poverty for people and families who (1) live in census tracts with high poverty rates; (2) have incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level ($35,200 for a three-person household in 2008); and (3) are either adolescent parents, older adolescents and young adults, or low-income working families.

ELIGIBLE PROVIDERS

The act authorizes DSS to select providers whose employment and training activities qualify for federal reimbursement to participate in the federal matching fund portion of the state FSE&T program. The commissioner sets the form and manner for selection and must give priority to providers that belong to an FSE&T community collaborative whose strategies are aligned with the recommendations of the Child Poverty and Prevention Council and its plan to reduce child poverty by 50% by 2014.

Community Collaboratives

Under the act, FSE&T community collaboratives are consortia of public and private providers that implement poverty reduction strategies. They must demonstrate, in the form and manner DSS specifies, their capacity to implement poverty reduction strategies to qualify as participants. They must identify:

1. priorities for reducing child poverty in their municipality or region,

2. how they will use the funds,

3. community partners and resources they use to support poverty reduction strategies, and

4. their capacity to collect relevant data and measure outcomes.

Each qualifying collaborative must establish a governance structure, determine membership, and identify or establish a fiscal agent. It must have at least five member entities representing institutions of higher education, regional workforce development boards, social service nonprofit agencies, business associations, philanthropic organizations, municipalities, community action agencies, or other community partners. A majority of its members must be FSE&T providers.

Collaboratives must use federal funds they receive to implement poverty reduction strategies in a municipality or region they serve.

DISTRIBUTION FORMULA

After allocating federal matching funds to operate and administer the program, as described above, the act specifies that DSS distribute the remainder as follows:

1. 75%, on a pro rata basis, to FSE&T providers whose expenditures generated the funds and

2. 25% to FSE&T community collaboratives selected under the act.

BACKGROUND

Federal Food Stamp Employment and Training Program

The federal FSE&T Program requires each state to implement an FSE&T program to help food stamp recipients gain skills, training, or experience to increase their ability to obtain regular employment. Federal funding for the program has three components: (1) a formula grant; (2) additional funds for states that pledge to provide services for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs), whose food stamp benefits became subject to time limits under the 1996 federal welfare reform legislation; and (3) federal matching funds for state expenditures above their formula grant amounts. The federal match is uncapped and set at 50% of state expenditures. A 2002 change in the food stamp law eliminated the requirement that states spend 80% of the FSE&T formula grant money on ABAWDs, giving states greater flexibility in how they use the funds.

On October 1, 2008, the federal food stamp program will be re-named the Secure Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Child Poverty and Prevention Council

The 21-member council is composed of appointees from the three branches of state government and one public member. It is required by law to (1) develop and promote the implementation of a 10-year plan to reduce the number of children living in poverty by 50%, (2) establish prevention goals and recommendations, and (3) measure prevention service outcomes. The council's current poverty reduction recommendations cover the following:

1. income tax-based assistance for workers,

2. child care,

3. housing subsidies,

4. health care,

5. early childhood education,

6. teacher quality,

7. secondary and post-secondary education,

8. income safety net programs,

9. teen pregnancy,

10. marriage penalties,

11. abrupt public benefit changes, and

12. fatherhood.

OLR Tracking: SP: JM: CR: ts