The first meeting of the year for the Cuyahoga County Council Health, Human Services and Aging (HHSA) committee took place on January 16. County Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell will remain chair of the committee, Councilman Dale Miller and Councilwoman Shontel Brown also are on the committee. Joining the HHSA committee are newly-elected councilwoman Cheryl Stephens, as well as the current Vice President of County Council, Councilman Pernel Jones. Jones replaces Councilwoman Nan Baker on the committee.
The meeting began with a presentation about an extension of a county contract, until September 30, for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) 2Skills program. David Merriman, deputy director of the Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services, presented some brief remarks and a short video about the SNAP2Skills program. How is Cuyahoga County helping to connect eligible #SNAP recipients with workforce opportunities? Find out in this county update from our @WillTarter Click To Tweet
According to Merriman, SNAP2Skills is a federal program, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program funds organizations that match individuals who are eligible for SNAP, with opportunities for employment training in health, manufacturing and other sectors. Those individuals then are given job training and earn appropriate certification, so that they may find full employment. The program was piloted in 10 states over the past two years. Those states received technical guidance from the Seattle Jobs Initiative, which achieved substantial success with a similar program.
…SNAP2Skills is a federal program, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program funds organizations that match individuals who are eligible for SNAP, with opportunities for employment training in health, manufacturing and other sectors.
The State of Ohio and Cuyahoga County have started to implement a similar program. Community organizations provide job training to local residents, and use their own dollars. Cuyahoga County and the state then apply, on behalf of those organizations, to the USDA for reimbursement. The federal government reimburses those organizations at a rate of 50 cents for every dollar spent (Cuyahoga County gets 5 cents of that reimbursement for administrative costs).
Of the 50 percent who do not get approved for SNAP, about half may be eligible for the benefits but aren’t approved because the state hasn’t sent approval to the address on the SNAP application, rather it is sent to the address the state has on file in their system.
Conwell noted that the organizations listed in the contract are large, and questioned how they were selected. The county already had existing relationships with the six local organizations, according to Merriman, and they also had funding for job training services available. Smaller organizations that rely on other forms of federal funding would not be able to participate in this type of program. The six organizations are:
- Cleveland Center for Arts and Technology, doing business as NewBridge Cleveland
- Cuyahoga Community College District
- Cuyahoga County Public Library
- The Centers for Families and Children – El Bario
- Towards Employment
- Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Inc.
Shontae McCurty and Deanna Boswell, who oversee the program from the Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services and Division of Job and Family Services, testified about its details. Along with Merriman, they described it as a win for everyone involved. Individuals can continue to be eligible for the SNAP program, as well as gain valuable job training to enter the workforce. For the county, this program, which currently is for individuals enrolled in SNAP, could also be used for other programs that may have a work requirement for eligibility. The job training could be used to gain and maintain eligibility for programs with work requirements. Finally, for the community workforce organization, it would be a win as the reimbursement program offers an additional revenue stream.
Individuals can continue to be eligible for the SNAP program, as well as gain valuable job training to enter the workforce.
The meeting concluded with an exchange between Merriman and Miller. Miller said that he met with the Cleveland Foodbank earlier that morning. He said the Foodbank assists individuals with SNAP enrollment, however, when making an application to the county, some individuals have to wait on hold on the telephone for hours. Additionally, for those who are able to get their application in, only about 50 percent of individuals who would are eligible, actually get approved. Of the 50 percent that do not get approved for SNAP, about half of them may be eligible but aren’t approved because the state hasn’t sent approval to the address on the SNAP application, rather it is sent to the address the state has on file in their system. Miller asked Merriman if he agreed with those comments. Merriman said that he did not feel comfortable addressing those specific questions, but referred the Miller to Kevin Gowan, the new administrator of the Cuyahoga County Job and Family Services. Merriman said that some of the Foodbank’s claims were investigated by the county, and not all were found to be accurate and he disagreed with some of the points the Foodbank made. He did acknowledge that there is room for improvement.
The SNAP2Skills contract was approved under second reading suspension and forwarded to the full council.