A couple of state lawmakers are asking Governor Scott Walker to help preserve FoodShare benefits for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites.
The 2014 Farm Bill’s impending cuts to food stamps would reduce low-income families’ grocery budget by about 90 bucks. Representative Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) says Walker can reverse this cut without affecting Wisconsin taxpayers.
The state of Wisconsin participates in what’s called “Heat and Eat.” The federal program allows low-income households to get a boost in FoodShare benefits if they receive at least $1 in low-income energy assistance. However, the nearly $1 trillion 2014 farm bill raised that minimum from $1 to $20. Shankland says that move effectively cuts food stamps for 255,000 Wisconsin households. She wants to raise the annual amount of federal dollars Wisconsin allocates for Heat and Eat assistance from $1 to $21 per household, thereby making those folks once again eligible for food assistance.
Critics say states using this loophole would make the farm bill’s intended savings of $8.6 billion over ten years moot.
Citing the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Shankland explains that allocating $5.4 million of federal funds to the Heat and Eat program would preserve $276.3 million in FoodShare benefits for Wisconsin families. No state money would be used.
Eight of the 16 states that participate in the Heat and Eat program have already taken similar action to expand heating aid in order to allow low-income resident to continue receiving food stamps.
The state Assembly has adjourned for the session, but Shankland says, like other states, Wisconsin’s governor can sign an executive order to stop the cuts, or he can call for a special session to address this bill right away. Majority leadership in Congress is looking into plugging this loophole in the federal law.
Representative Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) is cosponsoring the legislation.