Gov. Walker Announces New Welfare Reform Plan

Former Gov. Thompson joins Walker to unveil ambitious “Wisconsin Works for Everyone” initiative

MacIver News Service | January 23, 2017

[Madison, Wis…] Governor Scott Walker announced his plan on Monday to make it easier for people on welfare to re-enter the workforce. The initiative, called Wisconsin Works for Everyone, is intended to help people move off government assistance by finding jobs.

The wide-ranging plan expands work requirements for those on the state’s FoodShare program, requiring able bodied adults with school-age children to either work 80 hours per month or enroll in a job training program. It would also expand work requirements to working-age able-bodied adults on housing assistance.

The new work requirements expand on Walker’s 2015 FoodShare reform, which required able-bodied childless adults to work 80 hours per month or enroll in the FoodShare Employment Training program. Since that reform was implemented, 21,000 participants have found employment.

The plan also seeks to eliminate the “benefits cliffs” in the childcare assistance and Medicaid Purchase Plan (MAPP) programs. In both programs, a recipient loses all benefits at a certain income threshold, which means taking pay raises, promotions and more hours at work could cost the recipient all their benefits. Walker’s plan introduces a phase-out model for the benefits as a recipients’ income rises.

In addition, Walker’s plan would reform occupational licensing practices in the state, providing more scrutiny for proposed new occupational licenses and a review process for existing licenses.

It would also strengthen child support work programs in a pilot program involving five counties, help offenders re-enter the workforce with vocational training and work placement, and provide grants to help develop employer resource networks that connect job seekers with work. The plan also creates two new tax credits to incentivize work.

Former governor Tommy Thompson and many of his administration’s officials joined Walker at a news conference Monday afternoon to help unveil the agenda. Thompson said that before his administration’s 1996 Wisconsin Works welfare reform, 200,000 people were on the state’s welfare rolls. After W-2, only 5,000 were enrolled.

“Wisconsin Works for Everyone, like Governor Thompson’s original W-2 initiative, is based on the fundamental principle that work is dignifying and connects individuals to society and to its values,” Walker said.

Top Senate Republicans praised Walker’s plan.

“Our goal is to transition the government from the role of provider to connector, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to realize their full potential and improve their lives,” said Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), chair of the Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing, and State-Federal Relations.

“The governor’s plan moves Wisconsin one step closer to achieving that goal and promotes economic opportunity by addressing our state’s burdensome occupational licensing regulations,” Kapenga added.

Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) said, “As I travel my district and speak to employers, I have heard stories of government assistance recipients who will become worse off by taking a new job or pay increase. Government assistance should incentive – not penalize – full-time work. These ideas make it easier to climb the economic ladder.”

More specifics of Walker’s reform initiative will be provided in his budget proposal next month.