CalFresh Employment And Training (E&T) Program
The CalFresh Employment and Training (E&T) Program is California’s employment and training program for Non-Assistance CalFresh applicants and recipients. Non-assistance recipients are people who get CalFresh benefits each month, but do not receive a monthly cash grant under the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program.
The E&T Program was developed to comply with federal legislation which requires states to established employment and training programs for persons in receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Federal SNAP E&T requirements are defined in Section 6 (d) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 and in part 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Section 273.7. State regulations governing the CALFRESH E&T program are contained in the CDSS Manual of Policies and Procedures (MPP), Division 63, Section 63-407.
Counties may choose whether to offer an E&T program, and in Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2013, twenty-six counties participated in CALFRESH E&T. Non-assistance CalFresh recipients who qualify for specific exemptions or temporary deferrals may not be required to participate in E&T, but may do so on a voluntary basis. Counties provide E&T services to specific target populations within their larger non-assistance CalFresh population. The primary group most frequently targeted to receive E&T services consists of those CalFresh recipients who also receive county General Assistance (GA). Frequently, a county’s E&T program also serves as its GA work program.
Federal and state regulations allow counties to require participation in E&T or to offer E&T components in which individuals participate on a voluntary basis. With the passage of Senate Bill 43 in 2011, the criteria under which an individual may be excused from mandatory E&T participation was expanded to include persons living in a county or portion of a county that is designated as a Labor Surplus Area (LSA). For FFY 2013, nearly all E&T counties have been designated as a Labor Surplus Area, in part or in whole. Those participating counties who are not currently designated as a LSA have chosen to offer E&T as a voluntary program. Thus, E&T participation is voluntary in all 26 E&T counties.
Exemptions and Deferrals
Persons are exempt from E&T Program participation for reasons that include physical or mental unfitness, care for a child under age six, half-time school attendance, and participation in CalWORKs work activities. These exemptions are referred to as work registrant exemptions. CalFresh recipients who qualify for one of these exemptions may not be required to participate in E&T. Mandatory E&T participants who do not qualify for an exemption may be temporarily deferred from participation for reasons such as severe family crisis, lack of transportation, living too far from an E&T program site, and temporary illness. In California, SB 43 expanded the deferral criteria to include individuals under 18 or over 49, persons living in a CalFresh household with a child under age 18, and those residing in a Labor Surplus Area.
E&T Components and Participant Reimbursements
Participants can be assigned to a variety of activities, which include job club, job search, workfare, self-initiated workfare, vocational training, and basic education, including English-as-a-Second-Language for clients who have limited-English-proficiency. These activities are typically referred to as E&T components. A small portion of an E&T component may be devoted to generalized anti-substance abuse and mental health improvement discussions. Persons assigned to E&T receive reimbursement for transportation costs associated with program participation. Some counties provide additional reimbursements for other federally approved ancillary costs that are reasonably necessary and directly related to E&T participation. These include text books, tools, work clothing, dependent care, and short-term housing stabilization services.
Persons, who are required to participate in E&T and who fail to do so without a good reason, are ineligible for CalFresh for one, three or six months, depending on the number of times they fail to participate. An E&T disqualification will end immediately if the sanctioned individual qualifies for a work registrant exemption. Voluntary participants who fail to comply do not receive CalFresh sanctions. Currently, no CalFresh sanctions are imposed since E&T is voluntary in all participating counties.
Counties are responsible for administering their E&T programs. Some counties administer E&T internally within the county social services agency. Others interface with a variety of agencies and programs including CalWORKs, county one-stop centers, county General Assistance programs, Community Based Organizations, vocational education agencies, and adult schools. Some of the methods by which counties deliver E&T activities include non-financial interagency agreements within the public and private sector and contracts with outside organizations.
Counties, who choose to operate an E&T program, must submit an annual plan for state approval. The plan describes the E&T activities which the county will provide and identifies the cost for administering those activities. The California Department of Social Services reviews and approves the county plans and consolidates the data into an annual State Plan which it submits to the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) for approval.
E&T Program Funding
Each state receives an annual 100 percent Federal grant to operate its E&T programs. For example, in Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2013, California received a preliminary 100 percent allocation of $6,742,582. This allocation was subsequently adjusted based on changes in federal legislation. Federal 100 percent E&T dollars are distributed among participating counties based on their average monthly CalFresh caseload. Counties who wish to spend additional dollars administering their E&T program can receive federal reimbursement for 50 percent of their administrative costs. FNS also reimburses 50 percent of allowable expenditures for participant reimbursement. The total estimated cost of California’s E&T program for FFY 2013 is $92,050,126.