GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — A program launched in central Nebraska may go national, aiming to get more people off food stamps and into better jobs.
America needs truckers and Grand Island needs welders and nursing assistants. Senator Pete Ricketts wants to help people on food stamps get better jobs.
“I think there’s lot Washington can learn from Nebraska,” he said.
Under then-Gov. Ricketts, Nebraska added the Next Step component to SNAP, where Health and Human Services works with the Department of Labor along with SNAP recipients.
“They become a team member with us,” Workforce Coordinator Rebecca Perkins said.
Perkins told the senator what she thinks of SNAP Next Step. “It truly changes people’s lives,” she told Ricketts.
Under the voluntary program a job seeker can get added support.
“We can help with tuition, other trainings, supportive services,” she said.
The program began in Grand Island in 2016. As Ricketts hosted a roundtable discussion, he says 60 percent of those who have taken part no longer need SNAP benefits and 40 percent have reduced benefits. At the same time, he says it’s raised the average salary around $1,200 a month.
“It’s a whole new world,” Perkins told Ricketts.
Perkins says those she works with have money left at the end of the month. Ricketts says it’s a voluntary program. It’s also separate from proposed work requirements for SNAP recipients. The food program accounts for the majority of Farm Bill spending and Ricketts says his proposal is not controversial.
“I foresee it not being something that will slow down the Farm Bill, have any difficulty, anything like that,” Ricketts said.
And Rebecca Perkins has seen the success stories like a woman who got her commercial driver’s license and now drives a local route.
“She’s doubled her income, it makes a huge difference,” she said.
Local business people say the program is working. It’s just one part of their strategy to address workforce.
Human resources officials at Case New Holland say under Ricketts, Nebraska expanded use of youth apprentices and employers say that’s helped them grow their own workforce as CNH partners with Grand Island Public Schools.
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