Rule Creates National SNAP E&T Metrics

Rachel Zinn
March 23, 2016

A major workforce program for low-income people will report nationwide data on participant outcomes for the first time, under a federal regulation published today.

The regulation establishes performance measures for the employment and training (E&T) part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. SNAP E&T is designed to help participants move into self-sufficiency.

A Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC) report from last year analyzed SNAP E&T data challenges, including the lack of nationwide outcome measurement. 

Right now, 36 states track outcome measure for SNAP E&T, but they “use a variety of reporting measures, and the outcome data reported cannot be compared or summarized on a national level,” according to the regulation.

The rule, developed by the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), establishes four national metrics that all states must report for SNAP E&T participants:

♦ Number and percentage in unsubsidized employment in second quarter after completion

♦ Number and percentage in unsubsidized employment in fourth quarter after completion

♦ Median earnings for those in unsubsidized employment in second quarter after completion

♦ Number and percentage that completed a training, educational, work experience, or on-the-job training component

The SNAP E&T metrics closely align with the core measures in the Workforce and Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA), the law that governs several large workforce programs administered by the Departments of Labor and Education. FNS consulted with the Department of Labor as it created the new metrics. The employment and earnings metrics are essentially the same as WIOA, but WIOA measures credential attainment rather than training completion, and includes measures of employer effectiveness and skill gains which are absent from the SNAP E&T metrics.

In addition to requiring all states to report outcome metrics, the regulation mandates reporting on the number and percentage of SNAP E&T participants with six characteristics, including sex, age, high school diploma attainment, and speaking English as a second language.

The rule notes: “State agencies currently collect most of this information as part of the application and it should be available through their eligibility systems or SNAP E&T tracking systems.”

The regulation also requires states to identify appropriate outcome metrics, in addition to the four national metrics, that will be reported for each SNAP E&T service category that has at least 100 participants. These service categories, called components, include job search, work experience, and education.

States will face some challenges implementing new reporting requirements, including up-front costs to build reporting systems and establishing processes to track participant outcomes.

Like other workforce development programs, SNAP E&T could use participant data linked with their state’s Unemployment Insurance wage records to calculate employment and earnings. However, few states have these linkages established, and creating them requires data sharing agreements and state agency capacity to conduct data matching.

WDQC’s report explains model data practices from states like Washington and Texas, which have integrated SNAP E&T reporting with other workforce programs.

FNS is accepting comments on the interim rule over the next 60 days through their website or by email at SNAP-Ed@fns.usda.gov.