Community Action and SNAP E&T:
A Flexible Approach to CAA Involvement
Engage with participants
Engaging participants in SNAP E&T begins with determining a client’s eligibility for the program. At a minimum, SNAP E&T participant must be a SNAP benefits recipient. Eligibility for SNAP benefits is determined by an applicant’s or household’s resources and income, and individuals must apply through their states. To qualify for SNAP benefits, the individual must not receive any TANF cash assistance. They also must meet certain work requirements such as registering for work, not voluntarily quitting a job, and taking a job if offered. See USDA FNS’ SNAP Eligibility page for additional SNAP eligibility information. Depending on the state, SNAP recipients may be required to participate in the state’s SNAP E&T program. Even if the state does not require it, CAA engagement with SNAP recipients can help a state fulfill SNAP’s general work requirements for participants. See USDA’s SNAP Work Requirements page.
Many CAAs likely already have processes in place for the type of client engagement needed for SNAP E&T. The efficient intakes, eligibility determinations, referrals, and case management of clients described in Integration with CAA programs allow CAAs a level of built-in engagement with potential participants, so adding the option to take part in SNAP E&T may be fairly straightforward. In many cases, CAAs are already providing case management to help clients navigate the various programs they qualify for. Understanding an individual’s job-related goals and needs is just building upon a comprehensive intake process. CAAs are well-positioned to contribute to essential outreach efforts aimed at boosting SNAP E&T participation among SNAP recipients. The knowledge they possess of the individuals and families in their communities, as well as existing communications practices, can inform decisions about how best to educate and communicate with SNAP recipients about the SNAP E&T program. For some, that will involve direct client interactions through intake or case management. Others might find that other forms of verbal, written, or electronic communications yield greater levels of engagement. CAAs should conduct past assessments and analyze ongoing efforts to determine what has worked, what shows promise, and what can be improved upon. It is important to remember that SNAP E&T outreach must be directed at those who are already enrolled in the SNAP program for expenses related to the outreach to be allowable under the SNAP E&T program (See USDA FNS’ resource SNAP E&T Program Toolkit).
Strong, effective relationships with others in the community also enhance a CAA’s ability to engage SNAP E&T participants. A CAA’s capacity for outreach and communication, not just with program participants, but with a CAA’s larger network is thus a critical part of these efforts. If a CBO understands that a CAA offers SNAP E&T services – including the types of services offered and to whom – the CBO is better positioned to recognize the opportunity to refer someone to the CAA as a potential SNAP E&T participant.
Many of the skills used by CAAs in facilitation of their other funding, such as CSBG, can help inform and guide decisions about SNAP E&T programs and design. CAA can use their strategic planning, community assessments, and program analysis to measure and learn about what works and what doesn’t. In the SNAP E&T context, this includes a CAA seeking to learn what efforts promote SNAP E&T engagement in its area and strategize for future engagement. Existing studies also offer helpful insights about program participation. For example, a 2016 USDA FNS study found that SNAP E&T outcomes improved when the program led to participants obtaining academic credentials or community college certificates. A CAA can combine findings like these with its existing engagement experience to develop operational as well as communication strategies around its SNAP E&T program outreach.
This project has been funded at least in part with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.