NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KFSM) -- The United States Department of Agriculture announced on March 2 that Arkansas is one of 10 states selected to take part in a new job skills program for SNAP users.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program serves millions of people across the nation. USDA officials said they're hoping the SNAP to Skills program will help people on government assistance find employment.
"We were chosen as one of the 10 states because we have a problem in Arkansas," State Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, said. "The percentage of people who are receiving these benefits what we hope is that a lot of people want to be off food stamps and having a better paying job."
Hester said there will be a special session Tuesday (March 8) at the state capitol to discuss the program. He said he thinks it's a step in the right direction.
"I think this is a very good transitional period to get people that want to be off, off and the people that want to be on just for the sake of government assistance," Hester said. "I think this is a transitional period to maybe look for a requirement in the future."
USDA officials said the job training would not be mandatory. The training would likely include skills like job search training, education activities and job retention services. Hester said he thinks this is one issue that both parties will agree on.
"Republicans like it because we're moving in the direction of requiring somebody to actually try and get a job, to get food benefits," Hester said. "And the Democrats like it because we're offering some more benefits to someone, but we're not requiring that they accept the help."
The SNAP to Skills program is expected to last through September 2017. Other states involved in the pilot program include Arizona, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee.