SNAP Employment Opportunities, Personalized Services, Individualized Training and Career Planning (EPIC) Project

Helping Families. Supporting Communities. Empowering Individuals.
  • Illinois Deparment of Human Services

Revised 04/08/16

Policy Memo

Summary

  • Effective 03/01/16, the Department will begin a new Employment Opportunities, Personalized Services, Individualized Training and Career Planning (EPIC) pilot project authorized by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).
  • EPIC is a project designed to offer employment and training services to approximately 5,000 customers: 2,500 in a treatment group and 2,500 in a control group.
  • The project will serve residents of the following counties: Adams, Boone, Brown, Clinton, Cook, DeWitt, Franklin, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Macon, Marshall, Mason, McDonough, McLean, Monroe, Peoria, Perry, Pike, Randolph, Schuyler, St. Clair, Stark, Stephenson, Tazewell, Warren, Washington, Williamson, Winnebago and Woodford.
  • The residents, for example, of Jefferson and Washington counties are included in this pilot, but Wayne county is not included.  The counties of residence listed are participating in the pilot, but not necessarily the servicing FCRC.
  • FCRCs will provide information regarding EPIC to interested customers during the eligibility interview.  A customer can be referred to EPIC after ongoing eligibility has been certified.
  • In counties with SNAP E&T services, customers who must meet the SNAP work provisions in PM 03-15-00 must attend special group orientations at the local offices to learn about EPIC.  Volunteers may also attend.
  • FCRCs will conduct EPIC group orientations using Illinois WorkNet (IwN), the State's online workforce development web portal, in order to identify customers potentially suitable for EPIC.  FCRCs will also track customers' compliance with the project through Illinois WorkNet.
  • Following the orientation, customers will be randomly assigned to either the EPIC treatment group for expanded E&T services offered through Community Based Organizations (CBOs) or the EPIC control group for the regular SNAP E&T services in counties where available. 

Effective 03/01/16, the Employment Opportunities, Personalized Services, Individualized Training and Career Planning (EPIC) pilot project will begin in select local offices.  Customers must be engaged and participating in training by 12/31/2017.

What is EPIC?

EPIC is a SNAP employment and training project designed to help approximately 2,500 unemployed or underemployed customers by offering employment and training services not currently available through the SNAP E&T.  FCRCs will provide information regarding EPIC to customers during the eligibility interview.  A customer can be referred to the EPIC orientation after ongoing SNAP eligibility has been certified.  EPIC customers will be randomly assigned to either a treatment group and receive the expanded E&T services, or to a control group to receive the existing SNAP E&T services, where available. 

Where is EPIC?

EPIC will serve the following counties of residence:

County of Residence FCRC Servicing County
Adams Adams
Boone  Winnebago
Brown  Cass
Clinton Marion
Cook Cook
DeWitt Logan
Franklin Franklin
Fulton Fulton
Hancock Adams
Henderson  Warren
Jackson  Jackson
Jefferson  Jefferson
Knox Knox
Macon Macon
Marshall Bureau
Mason Mason
McDonough McDonough
McLean McLean
Monroe  Randolph
Peoria  Peoria
Perry Jackson
Pike Adams
Randolph Randolph
Schuyler Cass
St. Clair St. Clair/E. St. Louis
Stark Henry
Stephenson Stephenson
Tazewell Tazewell
Warren Warren
Washington Jefferson
Williamson Williamson
Winnebago Winnebago
Woodford Peoria

Group Orientations

Special group orientations will be held in the FCRCs or an offsite location where an overview of the EPIC project will be presented by local office staff.  In counties with SNAP E&T services, customers are required to attend the orientation if they are subject to the work provisions in PM 03-15-01 and have not yet been engaged with an E&T provider.  Other SNAP customers may volunteer to attend the orientation.

Local office staff will use the monthly Mobius report #50487771 to identify customers who must be scheduled for orientation and will send Form 1721, Instructions to Client notifying them of their appointment date.  Customers who are required but fail to attend the orientation without good cause are subject to sanction. Local office staff will also use Form 1721 to schedule volunteers for orientation upon request.

During orientation, customers who are interested in EPIC will complete an application and skills assessment.  They will also review training opportunities and career pathways available in EPIC and will be screened to determine if they meet the EPIC selection criteria and if there is a training program that fits their needs.  Customers subject to SNAP work provisions must continue with the regular SNAP E&T services, where available, if they are uninterested or not suitable for EPIC. 

Random Assignment to the EPIC Treatment Group or Control Group

Following orientation, the FCRC will schedule a second meeting with customers who are determined suitable for EPIC.  In this second meeting, the FCRC will obtain the customers consent to participate in EPIC.  Additional information will be collected from the customer for evaluation purposes.  The customer will then be randomly assigned to either an EPIC treatment or control group.

EPIC Treatment Group (Expanded E&T Services)

Customers who are randomly assigned to the EPIC treatment group will be connected with a Community Based Organization (CBO) in order to receive expanded E&T services and activity assignments.  Local office staff will monitor customer compliance with EPIC using the Illinois WorkNet.  If conciliation is necessary, CBOs will upload Form 2151A, Report of Action to the Illinois WorkNet.  FCRCs should check the Illinois WorkNet at least monthly to determine if any case action is required.

EPIC Control Group (Regular SNAP E&T Services) 

Customers who are randomly assigned to the EPIC control group will be enrolled in regular SNAP E&T activities, if available.  FCRCs should follow SNAP E&T policies and procedures found in PM/WAG 21-06-00 for the control group.

Special Policies That Apply to EPIC 

FNS has clarified that the following special SNAP policies apply to the EPIC project.

  • Once assigned to an EPIC treatment or control group, a customer may opt out of the EPIC project.  However, customers who are subject to the SNAP work provisions must continue with the SNAP E&T program if a provider slot is available.
  • EPIC customers' random assignment status will not change over the course of the project unless they opt out of the EPIC evaluation.  The individual stays in the treatment or control group even if they are ineligible for SNAP for the duration of the 36 month period.
  • Customers assigned to the EPIC treatment group who later move to a county that is not part of the EPIC pilot may volunteer to engage in regular SNAP E&T services, if available, but may not be required to do so.
  • Customers assigned to the EPIC control group in a county without E&T services are not required to engage if they later move to a county that does have E&T services. 
  • Customers who must meet the SNAP work provisions in PM 03-15-01 but later become exempt from the work provisions may continue to volunteer for services in the EPIC treatment or control group.
  • Work experience income earned by customers in the EPIC treatment group is exempt from countable SNAP income.
  • Employed customers who quit a job or reduce work hours to participate in EPIC are considered to have good cause for leaving employment due to enrollment in a recognized school or training program and will not be sanctioned.
  • Customers who must meet the SNAP work provisions in PM 03-15-01 who fail or who refuse to comply with EPIC requirements without good cause will be subject to a sanction if they reside in a county with an E&T program.  A conciliation process will be completed prior to imposing the sanction.  Volunteers are not subject to sanction.
  • In cases where an EPIC customer has failed or refused to work, no sanction will be imposed without first establishing that willful misconduct has occurred.  Willful misconduct must be documented using evidence including a statement from the employer and the customer's response before a sanction can be imposed.  FNS has defined willful misconduct as:
    • conduct showing intentional and substantial disregard of the employer's interests or of the employee's duties and obligations to the employer; or 
    • refusal to report to an employer if referred by the State and the potential employment is suitable; or 
    • refusal to accept a valid offer of suitable employment.

Who to Contact for Questions

FCRCs may contact the EPIC Project Manager, Deidre Wesley at deidre.wesley@illinois.gov for questions regarding the EPIC pilot.  Policy specific questions should continue to be sent to dhs.policydevelopment@illinois.gov.

[signed copy on file]

James T. Dimas

Secretary-designate, Illinois Department of Human Services

Forms referenced:

Form 1721

Form 2151A