By JENNIFER R. YOUNG
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. The members of the Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce met Friday at their “Rise and Shine” breakfast to hear about some employment and training programs joining forces to help match up job applicants with area businesses and organizations.
One program discussed was the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — Employment and Training Program (SNAP-E&T). Kenneth W. Lake, a job developer for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, said the program is designed to help people who receive SNAP — previously known as food stamps. The SNAP-E&T program’s goal is to help participants gain job skills, training and experience, which will improve their prospects of finding employment.
“It helps the participants move toward self-sufficiency and independence,” Lake said. “It helps them become trained professionals. This will help our economy all around.”
The program matches up applicants who qualify with a partner agency. The partner agency — such as a government agency, education organization, a community-based agency or a non-profit organization — then agrees to provide training for the applicant. The partner agency receives benefits, including reimbursement for training that applicant.
“The partner provides the training and then submits a bill to DHHR, and 50 percent of the training costs are reimbursed from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” Lake said.
The SNAP E&T program is designed to increase the number of skilled workers in the labor pool, increase the worker’s chances of being employed, decrease the cost employers pay to train their staff and fuel the local economy.
“Examples of partners would be places such as Shepherd University or Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, community-based agencies like Kiwanis and Rotary, or non-profits such as a church or Salvation Army,” he said. “Right now we’re working with Goodwill and West Virginia Works.”
The other training and employment programs described were for people who receive TANF benefits. West Virginia’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program is called “WV WORKS.” WV WORKS provides monthly cash assistance to families who qualify. Most people who receive a monthly WV WORKS check also get food stamps and Medicaid, but those are not guaranteed.
One program for TANF recipients is the Employer Incentive Program (EIP). The participant is matched with a company or organization. Then the business is reimbursed for 50 percent of the training cost for the first 200 to 600 hours of training the client receives.
“The higher paying jobs that require more skills require more training hours,”said Meghan Delaney, the economic services supervisor for DHHR. “The employer commits to retain the client at the end of the contract. It is not designed for seasonal or temporary work. They must work at least 30 hours when they are hired.”
Delaney also spoke about the Employer Subsidy Program (ESP). It is an employee program that will reimburse employers for up to the first six months of wages the client earns.
“The client must work at least 30 hours per week,” she said. “They also must receive the same employee benefits that other employees receive.”
Both Lake and Delaney agreed, the SNAP E&T and EIP programs are a better fit for large businesses, while the ESP may fit better with small businesses.
“One thing to remember is that with TANF we only work specifically with families with children. The SNAP-E&T is more open,” Delaney said. “It is new for the WV WORKS programs and the SNAP E&T programs to work together. I think it will be great. If I see that someone can’t qualify for TANF, they may qualify for SNAP-E&T and I can refer them.”
In West Virginia, there are more than 300,000 people across the state who receive SNAP benefits. As of April of 2016, all people receiving SNAP in Berkeley and Jefferson (and five other counties) must meet a work or education requirement for a monthly average of 20 hours per week in order to continue receiving SNAP benefits.
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