New Work Requirements for Wis. FoodShare Program

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[Madison, Wisc…] On Sunday, Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) unveiled his new workforce development plan, which will be included in his budget proposal for the next biennium. It includes reforming the FoodShare program and encouraging certain recipients to look for work.

Federal law requires “able-bodied adults without dependent children (ABAWD)” to either meet work or job training requirements to collect food stamp benefits. However, Wisconsin has a waiver for this requirement. Governor Walker wants to begin enforcing the work and training requirements beginning in July.

Under Walker’s proposal, able-bodied adults without dependent children would either need to have a job or participate in the FoodShare Employment and Training Program. If they don’t do that, they can only collect FoodShare benefits for three months every three years.

Currently there are about 76,000 ABAWDs in Wisconsin who don’t have an individual waiver excusing them from the work or training requirements. Of those 76,000, only about 6,000 participate in the Employment and Training Program.

In general, FoodShare recipients in Wisconsin more than doubled from 2007 (388,491 recipients) to 2011 (816,215 recipients). In 2011, $1.14 billion in benefits were distributed. In 2012, there were 840,000 recipients and $1.17 billion was distributed.

The program was surrounded by controversy last year after the Legislative Audit Bureau revealed numerous cases of fraud in two separate reports.

From July 2010 to June 2011, $32.9 million was spent out of state from the Wisconsin FoodShare Program. Some of these were legitimate purchases made by recipients who live near the state line.

“However, we found out-of-state purchases are not limited to contiguous states. In FY 2010-11, FoodShare purchases were made in every state in the nation, three United States territories, and the District of Columbia,” The Legislative Audit Bureau Reported last year.

There have also been documented cases of fraud where a benefit card was swiped at a store in Wisconsin, and then on the day, the card number was manually entered in a store on the other side of the country.

The Legislative Audit Bureau also estimates that 293 prison inmates have received FoodShare benefits while incarcerated worth about $413,000, and 847 fugitives collected about $1.4 million.

Walker is proposing a total of $132 million be spent on workforce related investments through the budget and individual legislation.