Illinois will be expanding efforts to connect low-income job seekers to resources that can help them secure employment. The state is receiving nearly $22 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to test an employment-and-training program.
USDA Food and Nutrition Service Regional Administrator Tim English says the program will assist participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in finding jobs with local businesses.
"This effort is really about helping people develop the skills they need to find good-paying jobs," says English. "Hopefully that can lead to self-sufficiency, which can ultimately lead to them not needing to rely on the program anymore."
The grant was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, and Illinois is among the 10 states receiving a total of $200 million for the pilot projects. In Illinois, more than one million households currently receive SNAP benefits.
The funding will enable the Illinois Department of Human Service to roll out its Job Training and Economic Development program into seven areas of the state. English say it's currently a small-scale program that boosts economic development by linking businesses to prospective employees.
"One of the reasons it was attractive is that it was a proven model that Illinois was already using and it was a matter of just building upon that and expanding what was available," he says. "Illinois' project also looks at seven areas around the state, so it's urban and rural opportunities."
English says SNAP recipients face various barriers to finding work, including long-term unemployment, homelessness, and physical or emotional challenges. He says the job-training program takes a holistic approach to case management by assessing the job seeker's needs and then placing the client in an accelerated adult education program, technical training or a work-based learning pathway.