Unemployment challenges vary across California countries, from widespread unemployment (over 20%) to minimal unemployment (3%) that disproportionately affects certain segments of the population. The SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) program is a potential lever to address these challenges, but is currently underutilized and delivered with varying quality across the state.
The GPL helped California expand and improve E&T programming by 1) using federal matching funds to create a perpetual, sustainable funding stream; 2) facilitating a data match of county E&T participants to state wage records to determine which clients were able to find employment; and 3) piloting a statewide contract for E&T services, which will allow the state to supplement services in under-resourced communities.
In addition to improving employment and training services across California, this project has shifted the focus of workforce support from job searches to sustainable placements and is working to overcome challenges of data decentralization across counties.
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Challenges with unemployment vary considerably across California’s 58 counties. Some counties face widespread unemployment rates (over 20%), while others have minimal unemployment rates (3%) that disproportionally effect certain segments of the population. Many under-resourced counties, often those that have more pervasive unemployment challenges, are not able to provide robust support for workforce development. The SNAP E&T program is a potential lever to address these challenges, but is currently underutilized and delivered with varying quality across the state. Many SNAP E&T programs provide the minimum basic job training (job search support), without a focus on wrap-around services to spur long-term sustainable employment.
The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) hopes to improve SNAP E&T services across all counties by increasing the standard of quality and incorporating more robust services. Project partners are in the process of:
Designing state-wide contracts to expand SNAP E&T services. CDSS, with help from the GPL, is designing a set of state-wide contracts for SNAP E&T services to address unmet needs in counties with low capacity to provide services themselves. The intent of these state-wide contracts is threefold: to make services more robust to focus on sustainable long-term employment, to raise the quality bar across counties, and to unlock additional federal/state match funding for the program. The request for information (RFI) received many responses, and a request for proposals (RFP) is planned to release in 2018.
Creating an “innovation fund” to incentivize quality E&T service provision at the county level. To create incentives to encourage counties to improve the quality of E&T services being delivered, CDSS is also working on an “innovation fund” to which counties can apply for top-up funding. The innovation fund will provide resources to counties that are developing more robust E&T services, to shift the focus away from solely job search activities. Examples of more robust services could include intensive vocational training, providing wraparound supports (transportation, childcare, etc.), and on-the-job training opportunities.
Sharing actionable data with counties on key program indicators to improve service delivery. Project partners are working to develop robust data collection and sharing practices, in order to facilitate active contract management (ACM) strategies amongst E&T providers across California. ACM involves high-frequency reviews of real-time performance data and regular, collaborative meetings between government and service providers. These strategies allow partners to rapidly respond to problems, make consistent improvements to performance, and identify opportunities for improving E&T service provision. For this project, the first round of data collection and sharing amongst counties has been completed. As a result of this process, efforts are being made to help counties improve their data collection practices.
In addition to improving employment and training services across California, this project has wider implications for government services by:
Shifting the focus of workforce support from job searches to sustainable placements. This project represents a broader shift within the workforce system, with a new focus on providing holistic services to work towards sustainable long-term employment. In particular, California is among the states working to increase access to more intensive training, including on-the-job training and demand-driven sector-based training, as well as ancillary services such as transportation support and childcare. Expanding SNAP Employment & Training programs represent an opportunity to create new slots in these more intensive training offerings.
Providing a model for pooling federal, state, and county resources more effectively. To date, the uncapped 50/50 federal match funding for SNAP E&T services has not been fully taken advantage of in California. Through this project, the GPL is working with the state to find ways to inject state funds into this program in a highly leveraged way, by combining state funds with county and/or philanthropic funding to match to federal dollars. In a county administered system, this project explores the ways in which the state can kick start innovation at the county level.
Working to overcome challenges of data decentralization across counties. The data on individuals participating in E&T services in California is collected and held at the county level. This makes it difficult to track participants across county lines, and match data to make meaningful comparisons across counties. This challenge is not unique to the SNAP E&T program in California, and the problem mirrors that faced by many agencies that struggle to implement standardized methods of data collection across providers. This project is working to match county-level participation data with state-level wage and employment data in order to use data to bring counties together and better manage their E&T programs.