Many FoodShare recipients will have to work at least 20 hours a week or enroll in job training, if they want to keep receiving benefits. The budget provision approved by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee Tuesday would cut off food stamp benefits for able-bodied childless adults, unless they meet work requirements.
State Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine) called the proposal a mean-spirited attack on the poor that literally tells “30,000 Wisconsin residents, who are poor, we’re going to take away your benefits for food.”
Mason criticized Republicans for making the change on the same day that Governor Walker attended a high-priced fundraiser in New York. Democrats also pointed out that the stricter work requirements will end up costing the state money. About 63,000 residents currently fall under the category of able-bodied childless adults and state officials estimate over 31,000 people would no longer qualify for benefits, which would result in Wisconsin losing about $72 million in federal aid. The state would also spend about $36 million over the next two years to monitor recipients and create job training programs.
Joint Finance Committee co-chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) defended those extra costs though, saying individuals receiving the “hand-up” offered by FoodShare should also be doing whatever they can to find work. Other Republicans on the panel pointed out that the change only impacts those who should be able to work and actually brings the state in line with federal work requirements for food assistance programs.
Republicans unanimously backed the changes, arguing they will help encourage people to get back to work. State Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) said they may not even go far enough. He contends lawmakers should be making it harder for people to adopt a “welfare lifestyle.”
The measure passed on a party line vote, with Democrats voting against the change. It will be included in the full state budget proposal that’s expected to go before the Legislature next month.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:03)