Delegates are advancing legislation to require work training for most recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in West Virginia.
House Bill 3484 has a range of exceptions, including for parents caring for small children, but generally it would make the Employment and Training program mandatory rather than an option for SNAP recipients. Recipients already working or in school would be among the exceptions. The policy would apply to recipients over 17 and under age 60.
The House Government Organization Committee advanced the bill on Monday afternoon.
Kent Nowviskie, deputy commissioner of the state Bureau for Family Assistances, told committee members that when recipients are interested in the Employment and Training program they have greater success. “So we’ve been trying to work with clients to promote the benefits of participating in this program, but mandating it may have a different effect,” Nowviskie said.
Testimony indicated that making the program mandatory would result in a significant cost increase — generally, putting 40,000 people into a program currently operated on a budget of about $600,000. But there was no fiscal note, and an attempt to refer the bill to the House Finance Committee was tabled by a vote of a majority of Government Organization Committee members.
“Our budget for the program is miniscule. This year we got $600,000 from the federal government in administrative funds to operate the program,” Nowviskie said, adding that the costs of making the program mandatory would not be covered fully by federal funding.
“And so, that would be a significant outlay of state dollars that we would have to use.”
Delegate Kayla Young, D-Kanawha, followed up on that financial question.
“So would you be able to help people more or less with the same amount of money but way more people?” she asked.
Nowviskie said the agency probably would have to change its approach.
“We would probably have to change what we’re able to do for clients with the program and look at something like making the only component of the program that qualifies into something like supervised job search, which is a little less than we’re able to do for these clients now,” he said.
The administrative costs of implementing a mandatory program would grow significantly, Nowviskie later said.
“This would require a significant outlay of state dollars,” he said. “So we would have to do a lot of systems changes, build functionality into our eligibility system to operate this program. That would be at a 50 percent federal-50 percent state match. I can’t speak to what that would cost. I would just be guessing, but I would be pleasantly surprised if it was less than several million dollars.”