As students across the state are returning to the classroom--whether physically or virtually--the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) has several programs to help support students and families in their growth and development. From ensuring vital nutrition for children as well as adults in higher education, to connecting families to providers of early quality childhood education and child care, DES is here to help support Arizona’s next generation.
Providing Early Quality Childhood Education
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Arizona has helped to maintain the strength and availability of quality child care for essential workers and for individuals returning to work. Not only does child care enable Arizonans to reenter the workforce, but it also ensures that our youngest children have access to early quality childhood education. The impacts of engagement and education early in life is demonstrated throughout a child’s entire life, and DES is available to help parents connect with child care providers statewide and give their children a head start on a life of quality learning and development. Learn more about child care assistance.
Ensuring Proper Nutrition for Students
Each year, hundreds of thousands of children rely on free and reduced-price school meals as provided through the Arizona Department of Education. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the country shifted to online learning throughout 2020 and 2021, for the health and safety of children and families. Although access to nutritious foods was still available to children and families as distributed by school districts throughout the state, the availability was less reliable and accessible for low-income families. Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) was created by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to provide assistance to households with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals while schools were either closed or offering a full-time or part-time distance learning model due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
DES issued nearly $201 million in P-EBT to 636,000 school children during the 2019-2020 school year. Over $704 million in P-EBT was distributed for 700,000 school children and 144,000 children participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) under six years of age. DES is currently in the process of distributing an additional $375 for 750,000 children through Summer P-EBT, having distributed $281 million thus far. Learn more about P-EBT.
In addition to supporting children, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) temporarily expanded eligibility for students in higher education with the notion that students attending college in order to receive an education and further their career should be focused on their next test, not stressed about their next meal.
Students who are enrolled at least half-time, meet the income and eligibility requirements, applied for financial aid, and either have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $0 OR are eligible to participate in a state or federally-financed work-study program, can now participate in SNAP. Note: The new federal exemptions require only that students are eligible for a work-study program; they do not need to participate. Learn more about expanded eligibility for students.
Preparing Students with Disabilities for the Workplace
DES helps students prepare for the workforce upon graduation, regardless of their experience or ability. Pre-Employment Transition Services, or Pre-ETS, are services offered by the DES Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program to help Arizona's students who have disabilities prepare for a successful transition from school into the workplace. Students who participate in the Pre-ETS program learn about the workforce and explore potential career paths based on an understanding of their skills and interests.
Students receiving Pre-ETS work with community services providers who are contracted with VR to prepare for their transition into the workforce through job readiness training, self-advocacy skills building, exploration of applicable on-the-job training and post-secondary education opportunities and more. Pre-ETS are available to any student who has a disability and is between the ages of 14 and 22 years-old. Learn more about Pre-ETS.
Apprenticeships: The Other Four-Year Degree
A college education is not always the right career path for everyone. For those who would prefer to launch their career with real, hands-on experience, an apprenticeship may be the right course of action. Known as "the other four-year degree," apprenticeships give participants the unique opportunity of learning a new trade while also receiving a salary and a nationally-recognized completion certificate to help them launch a new career.
However, the split between apprenticeship and higher education is not the fork in the road it once was. Rather, many apprenticeship programs offer college credit for classroom instruction, to the extent that some apprentices complete their programs with an Associate or Bachelor’s degree.
What for decades has served as an alternative to a college degree, now can also be a means to receive one, while also providing invaluable hands-on experience and a paid salary. While DES partners with [email protected] to provide a myriad of workforce services to meet the needs of job seekers, they may also consider apprenticeship as a way to break into a new field. Learn more about our apprenticeship programs.
Whether beginning or continuing education, or preparing for employment beyond, DES is here to help Arizonans at every stage of their academic and professional careers.