Growing Partnerships and Programs
Minnesota envisions a SNAP E&T program that provides low-income Minnesotans clear pathways to developing marketable and in-demand skills leading to career advancement and self-sufficiency.
Prior to 2015, Minnesota’s SNAP E&T program relied primarily on its limited 100 percent SNAP E&T funds to provide services in most of the State’s 87 counties and 11 tribal governments, along with four pilot 50-50 programs in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties (Minneapolis/St. Paul metro areas). At that time, the program was led and operated by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) through an interagency agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).
A few years ago, the State began to explore how to expand their SNAP E&T 50-50 program, with support from an inclusive stakeholder group and the Minnesota Funders Collaborative and later, the SNAP to Skills Project. The State embarked on a deliberate planning process, incorporating feedback from community stakeholders along the way. Through this planning process, the State was able to implement some key initial decisions that would strengthen their program’s foundation for future expansion.
Minnesota began by moving the administration of the program from DEED to DHS. This approach better leveraged the strengths of each agency: allowing DEED to continue to provide strategic guidance about SNAP E&T as part of the State’s workforce development strategy, while permitting DHS to ensure that SNAP E&T was designed to meet the unique needs of SNAP participants.
After developing a thorough Strategic Plan, developed in coordination with stakeholders, Minnesota began laying the foundation for a new SNAP E&T program focused on delivering services through third-party providers and opening the program up to non-ABAWDs on a voluntary basis.
First, DHS implemented a centralized contracting model and enhanced their staffing resources. SNAP E&T providers can now contract directly with DHS rather than solely with an individual county. Two new DHS staff were added to the State’s team through the reallocation of 100 percent funds, which allows the State to provide more robust and concrete technical assistance and guidance to potential providers. Most recently, Minnesota has adopted an all-voluntary SNAP E&T program, allowing limited resources to be invested where they will make the most impact. Through these efforts and others, the groundwork for expansion was laid and DHS was able to expand the four original 50-50 pilot programs, contract with four new providers in 2017, and nine additional in 2019 bringing the total number of DHS contracted providers to 17.
Expanding SNAP E&T 50-50 programming in Minnesota has been no small feat. The State faced multiple layers of complexity in operating a once mandatory, now all-voluntary, county-administered program, and has overcome limited capacity to automate processes with its current Management Information System (MIS). As a result, expansion has occurred at a pace that seeks to balance the need to keep forward momentum with the need to ensure that all stakeholder perspectives are considered. Looking forward, Minnesota’s dedicated SNAP E&T team plans to strengthen existing partnerships, expand the program to more counties, and continue to engage community colleges and Tribal Organizations as potential partners. They are moving closer to realizing their vision for increasing skills and creating employment opportunities for all Minnesota SNAP recipients.