September 30, 2014

Governor signs food stamp trafficking bill

Prosecutors will have more power to go after abuses of the state’s FoodShare program, under a bill signed in to law Monday morning by Governor Scott Walker.

The legislation makes trafficking in benefits received under Wisconsin’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) illegal, which would include buying, selling, stealing, or otherwise exchanging SNAP benefits for cash or other items.

State Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Powers Lake), a sponsor of the legislation, says it gives local district attorneys the same tools that are available on the federal level when it comes to charging someone that has defrauded the system. Kerkman says the bill was introduced in response to a series of media reports and a state audit, which showed widespread fraud from some SNAP recipients. Those cases included people who traded their benefits for cash, drugs, and even guns.

Kerkman hopes the new law will help serve as a deterrent for those who want to defraud the program, while ensuring those who truly need the benefits are still able to access them.

AUDIO: Rep. Kerkman (:15)

The bill passed the Legislature earlier this session with broad bipartisan support, although some Democrats criticized the measure as an attack on the state’s poorest residents.