Food stamp mandate

Eligible food aid recipients must train for jobs in SC pilot program

Program will be tested in Richland, 11 other counties

rburris@thestate.comApril 11, 2012 

An agreement signed into action Wednesday between state agencies mandates that South Carolinians who receive federal food stamp assistance and are able to work must participate in job training or risk losing the assistance.

The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce and the S.C. Department of Social Services announced the new program Wednesday. Under the program, adults 18-49 years old who are able-bodied, do not have dependents and live in one of 12 counties chosen to initiate the program must register for work.

The agencies said they have the combined resources of manpower, money, training sites and equipment sufficient to put thousands of work-eligible, public assistance recipients back on jobs, which they say will strengthen the state’s work force and reduce unemployment.

What job training entails

Job referral services will include one-on-one job coaching, resume building assistance, interview preparation and referrals to jobs that are open in the state, said Abraham J. Turner, Employment and Workforce’s executive director.

Counseling, personal attention and follow-up by state personnel also will be part of the mandatory program, Turner said. Other public assistance programs, such as welfare, also are linking to the recipient employment and training concept, Turner said.

Approximately 97,000 people across the state fit the profile for inclusion in the program, officials said. The year-long program will be piloted in Richland, Sumter, Anderson, Beaufort, Cherokee, Darlington, Dorchester, Georgetown, Greenville, Greenwood, Lancaster and Orangeburg counties.

Pilot program

Each of the 12 centers will work with 1,000 food assistance recipients per month, Turner said. Six areas already have begun the initial training and counseling, including in Orangeburg, and the remaining six will begin training and counseling on April 30.

Officials said the food stamp program was targeted because it is the one program the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows to have as a condition for assistance seeking work.

“The focus of employment and training monies available through the SNAP Food Stamp program is to help them get connected to employment,” said Lillian Koller, DSS state director.

“This is all about jobs. Giving out food stamps and welfare monies – assistance – is not a long-term strategy for eradicating poverty. It’s just not,” Koller said. “But jobs are. Jobs are a means and they’re an ends.”

The key, Koller said, is to grab the unemployed “when they’re fresh,” rather than after a long delay from work. “You don’t want people sitting around on public assistance and getting used to being unproductive. You want to grab them the minute they apply for a food stamp benefit and get them right over to getting a job,” she said.

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