More than 120,000 fewer Wisconsin residents are using food stamps than two years ago, and up to $197 million less will be spent on food stamps this year than what was spent in 2014.
Gov. Scott Walker’s administration attributes much of the drop to an improving economy recovering from the Great Recession of 2008. But food pantries aren’t seeing a similar decline in the number of people seeking meals and groceries, their administrators say.
In fact, they say demand is up in some areas as lawmakers have scaled back the value of food stamps and as recipients are kicked out of the state’s FoodShare food stamp program for not actively seeking work — a new state requirement for able-bodied food stamp recipients.
The 2013-15 state budget created a rule: If you’re an able-bodied adult without children living at home, you must work at least 80 hours a month or look for work to stay in the program.
That rule went into effect in April 2015, and since July 2015, more than half of the eligible FoodShare recipients were dropped from the program for not seeking employment, according to the most recent DHS data.
Participants can get three months of FoodShare benefits before being removed from the program if they don’t look for work.
But it also created a job training and placement program that has led to 12,000 recipients finding jobs in that time period, which Tussler has said is an “abysmal” rate compared to the number of people who lose benefits.
I’m old enough to remember when advocates for poor folks celebrated when more of them went back to work and were able to sustain themselves.