FoodShare Wisconsin is the state’s program implementing the federal Food Stamp Act of 1964. It was designed to help low income families and individuals purchase food.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), counties, and other local agencies administer the program.
Between 2003 and December 2012, the number of Wisconsinites receiving FoodShare benefits grew from approximately 462,000 to approximately 845,000.
One contributing factor in the program’s exponential growth was the national economic recession.
Additionally, a FoodShare audit report released by the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau in April 2012 cited; “Policy changes also reduced barriers to participation and increased the number eligible for benefits. For example, DHS expanded eligibility for FoodShare benefits to those with gross incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level and eliminated net income and asset limits for most recipients.”
There was an underreported factor influencing its growth as well. In 2009 former Governor Jim Doyle made job training voluntary to people on food stamps. Because of its voluntary status, few recipients availed themselves of the offered training.
Governor Walker’s 2013-15 biennium budget proposes FoodShare eligibility modifications for able-bodied adults. Changes to the program’s entitlement will require individuals be working or enrolled in 20 hours per week of employment training to receive aid. It further requires increasing work searches from 2 to 4 per week for unemployment insurance eligibility.
Section 1214 amends Wisconsin State Statute 49.79 (9) (b) to read: “Except as provided in par. (c), an individual who fails to comply with the work requirements under par. (a) without good cause is ineligible to participate in the food stamp program.”
As stated in the budget, “If an able-bodied adult does not fulfill the work requirement, the department may limit the able-bodied adult’s eligibility for food stamps to no more than 3 months during a 3-year period.”
Note: people determined by the FoodShare division of the Department of Health and Human Services to be medically certified as physically or mentally unfit for employment, a parent of a minor, pregnant women, and the elderly will be excluded from the work requirements.
Wisconsin records show approximately 76,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 50 who are currently receiving FoodShare but are not actively seeking employment or job training will be affected by these changes.
Governor Walker stated during his budget address; “We’re not talking about pushing people out on to the streets. Instead, we are talking about empowering people to control their own destiny with a job in the private sector where they can pursue their dreams. This is what truly leads to freedom and prosperity.”
As Americans, we are renowned for our generosity in helping the less fortunate and providing temporary help in times of need. Whereas permanent safety nets must always be in place to help the truly needy, this budget ensures the FoodShare safety net does not allow able-bodied adults to exploit the system.