The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) requires states to provide case management to all E&T participants. Section 17 [7 U.S.C. 2026] (a)(1) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as amended, provides general legislative authority for the planned data collection. It authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to enter into contracts with private institutions to undertake research that will help improve the administration and effectiveness of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in delivering nutrition-related benefits.
Case management in E&T programs for low-income populations has great potential to facilitate positive outcomes for participants, but is one of the least studied aspects of such programs. Participants who receive support in their quest to obtain and maintain jobs that pay livable wages might be more likely to engage in program services and progress toward their employment-related goals than those who do not receive such support. Case management involves assessing participants' skills, interests, strengths, and challenges and using this information to develop an individualized plan for addressing barriers, obtaining skills, and gaining employment.
Case managers can also use assessments to help identify which reimbursements participants need to successfully complete E&T activities and succeed in future employment. State SNAP agencies are required to provide participants with reimbursements for necessary and reasonable expenses that directly relate to their participation in SNAP E&T, such as child care and transportation. Case managers can help coordinate these reimbursements, as well as referrals to other services and supports, such as clothing for interviews, mental health services, housing resources, training and education services, and work-based learning opportunities.
FNS has promoted providing case management and assessments as a best practice in SNAP E&T programs in recent years, including through guidance to states on how to prepare their annual SNAP E&T plans. Although states have provided varying degrees of case management, FNS lacks in-depth information about case management models and the intensity of services. Section 4005 of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (PL 115-334) modified the definition of an Employment and Training program in the Food and Nutrition Act to require that each state provide case management to all SNAP Employment and Training participants. States also must report on how they will provide case management in their fiscal year (FY) 2020 SNAP E&T State plans.
By surveying all 53 state SNAP E&T directors and conducting in-depth case studies of four states, this study will provide FNS a comprehensive picture of case management in SNAP E&T, including how states assess (and reassess) individuals' needs for specific E&T services and supports, and how states provide participant reimbursements and other support services to mitigate barriers to participating in SNAP E&T activities and seeking and maintaining employment.
Findings from the study will inform the development of best practices and lessons learned that FNS can share with all state agencies. This information will be particularly important as FNS continues to work with states to implement high quality SNAP E&T programs and fulfill the new case management program requirement by documenting best practices to inform program guidance.