Joint Finance to Vote on FoodShare Work Requirements

Would Increased Job Search Requirements Result in Half of Current Participants Quitting?

MacIver News Service | May 21, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] The Joint Committee on Finance will decide today if able-bodied childless adults will be required to get a job or take job training to receive food stamp benefits.

Governor Scott Walker’s budget includes several entitlement reform proposals. FoodShare recipients would “be required to work an average of 20 hours per week, participate in and comply with the requirements of a work program for 20 hours per week, spend 20 hours per week in any combination of work and participation in a work program, or participate in and comply with a workfare program.”

Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine), member of the Joint Committee on Finance, criticized the proposal as “a really bad idea”.

Only recipients aged 18-50, physically and mentally fit for employment, and who do not have a child residing in their home would be required to have a job or participate in the work program.

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 received a waiver from the federal government nullifying the work or job training requirement.

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 the individual does not meet these requirements, he/she would collect FoodShare benefits for only three months every three years.

Currently there are about 63,000 ABAWDs in Wisconsin who don’t have an individual waiver excusing them from the work or training requirements. DHS originally estimated there were 76,000 in March 2012, and said only about 6,000 participated in the Employment and Training Program.

Based on the state of Delaware’s experience imposing similar work requirements, DHS believes that 50% of non-exempt ABAWDs would drop out program rather than meet the new requirements, saving $71.9 million dollars.

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 same 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.

The MacIver News Service will update this article when JFC votes on the measure.