Boots & Sabers

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Tag: Welfare

Should the Names of Food Stamp Recipients be Public Information?

Interesting case.

The nation’s high court on Monday wrestled with whether government spending records from the nation’s largest food safety-net program are records that Congress intended to be released under a key federal transparency law.

Much of the argument in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Mediacentered on the meaning and intent of the word “confidential” and its use in the Freedom of Information Act, which Congress passed in 1966 to make government records available to the public.

The Food Marketing Institute, which represents grocers and other retailers, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the issue after a lower court ruled that spending records from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could be released to the public.

Justices appeared conflicted between upholding the spirit of the Freedom of Information Law and the desire to stick to the literal meaning of the word “confidential.”

“One of the aims of FOIA was to make information public despite official willingness,” Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

But Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch noted that the word “confidential” was presumed to mean something different in another section of the FOIA law. “Why should we give the same word two different meanings?” he said.

I can see why it would be nice for recipients to have their names kept secret. They don’t want to be harassed or marketed to. Also, there might still be a scrap of shame associated with receiving welfare that people don’t want to be shamed. Frankly, I don’t think there is a societal stigma on receiving food stamps anymore… at least if the line at Woodman’s is any guide.

But I don’t see any overriding governmental interest that would require this information to be kept secret. They are receiving public money and the taxpayers have a right to know where their money is going. This information should be public.

Wisconsin is Working

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

The economy in Wisconsin is booming and employment is at an all-time high. Data released by the Department of Workforce Development last week showed that December’s 3% unemployment is tied for the lowest unemployment rate on record and the number of people employed is at an historic high. Wisconsin is enjoying economic full employment. If you want a job in Wisconsin, you can have one.

In light of the economic boon in the state, Governor Scott Walker has called a special session of the legislature to pass a package of welfare reform legislation dubbed Wisconsin Works for Everyone. The legislation is authored by Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senator Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield). Governor Walker says the reform legislation will, “remove barriers to work and make it easier to get a job, while making sure public assistance is available to those who truly need it.”

Part of what makes such legislation possible are new rules regarding Medicaid recently issued by the Federal government under President Trump. In the past, Medicaid eligibility has been based almost completely based on a person’s income. The Trump Administration has informed states that they can introduce requirements that most people receiving Medicaid either work or look for work.

There are 10 principal parts of the Wisconsin Works for Everyone welfare reform package. They will also undoubtedly be revised, expended, trimmed, and otherwise tweaked as they go through the legislative process. Here are a few of the key elements of the package to start the conversation.

 Expand work requirements for recipients of Wisconsin’s FoodShare Employment and Training program from 20 hours to 30 hours for more people. The bill would require people to treat both able-bodied adults with dependents and able-bodied adults without dependents the same by requiring 30 hours of work instead of 20.

 Launch a pilot program to allow recipients of the Earned Income Tax Credit can receive payments throughout the year instead of waiting until they file their taxes to receiveit in a lump sum. This will put more money in the pockets of low-income people throughout the year as they work. Ifsuccessful, the pilot program will be expanded to all EITC recipients.

 Establish an asset test related to a primary residence. Under this bill, if a person owns a home (excluding farm land) that is worth more than 200 percent of the statewide median value home ($321,000), they would not be eligible for W-2, Wisconsin Shares, or Foodshare. This bill would also add a $20,000 limit on the total equity value of a non-work related vehicles. Simply put, if a person has a nice home and drives nice vehicles, the taxpayers should not be giving them welfare.

 Prohibit able-bodied parents who refuse to cooperate with determining paternity of a child or refuse to pay child support from receiving Medicaid.

 Require employment screening and drug testing for people who use public housing and provide employability plans and drug treatment as needed.

 Require photo identification for people who receive FoodShare.

There is a role for the taxpayers to play in supporting people who are unable to support themselves, but it is offensive for taxpayers to be forced to support people who are able to support themselves. The Wisconsin Works for Everyone reforms are designed to push able-bodied adults into the workforce and provide training and treatment for those who need it.

There is a dignity in work that cannot be replaced by an entitlement. Moreover, at this moment in time, Wisconsin is flush with jobs of all skill levels and needs everyone possible to find a job and work hard.

JFC Advances Measure to Require Work for Welfare

It’s a move in the right direction.

The state Legislature’s budget-writing committee voted on Thursday to require some Wisconsin residents using food stamps and receiving public health care to be tested for drug use and to meet work requirements in exchange for benefits.

The Joint Finance Committee, the state’s budget-writing panel, voted 12-4 to approve Walker’s plan that would make Wisconsin the first state in the nation to make drug tests mandatory for Medicaid recipients and would impose tests on adult food stamp recipients without dependent children seeking coverage through the state’s BadgerCare program.

Some parents with children over the age of 6 who are enrolled in the state’s FoodShare program, which administers federally funded food stamps in Wisconsin, also would be required to work or look for employment for at least 80 hours per month under another measure proposed by Walker that the panel approved Thursday. The work requirement currently only applies to FoodShare recipients without children.

The panel scaled back the governor’s proposal by applying the work requirement to parents using food stamps in certain regions of the state between April 2019 and June 2020 and not allowing the requirements to be applied statewide until an evaluation indicates it should be.

Walker’s Welfare Reform Proposals

There is a LOT to like in these proposals.

Wisconsin Works for Everyone, which will be included in Governor Walker’s budget proposal this coming February, seeks to extend work requirements to able-bodied adults with school-age children who are receiving FoodShare, as well as to able-bodied adults receiving housing assistance. Just like Governor Thompson’s reforms, these initial changes would take place on a pilot basis.


Governor Walker’s full proposal will increase investment in job and skills training for the unemployed and underemployed, reduce barriers to work and increased earnings, and expand programs that incentivize employment. Where flexibility is needed, it will also aggressively seek federal waivers under a new incoming administration to encourage work and enhance self-sufficiency, including to pilot work requirements for working-age, able-bodied adults receiving housing vouchers.

As part of the proposal, job training programs will be significantly expanded for the unemployed or underemployed receiving FoodShare, the incarcerated and ex-offenders, and low-income noncustodial parents involved in the child support system.

Additionally, barriers to work will be addressed through reforms that reduce occupational licensing and eliminate the benefits cliff in child care subsidies, which can leave families financially worse off if they take a raise or work more hours. Barriers to work would also be eliminated for those enrolled in the Medicaid Purchase Plan (MAPP), by removing the premium cliff as people transition into earning more income.

Wisconsin Works for Everyone will also expand programs that incentivize and reward employment by establishing an earned-income tax credit groups who often struggle to connect with work, including young adults aging out of foster care, as well as those who exit the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) child disability program at age 18.

There are many details to work out, but the thrust of the proposals are clear. Walker wants to revamp our welfare programs to incent work, enable folks to get into the workforce, and smooth out the transition from welfare to work so that people don’t get hammered for improving their lives. I know the phrase is loaded, but this breathes “compassionate conservatism.”

It’s good to see Walker turning his considerable energy and talent back to Wisconsin after the distraction of the presidential campaign. There is so much more he can do for this state.

Number of People Using Food Stamps in Wisconsin Declines


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.

Welfare Reform Working in Wisconsin


The Walker administration Wednesday touted a new report that showed nearly 12,000 people on food stamps found work in the first year after the state implemented a new job-training requirement.

The report also showed more than 41,000 able-bodied adults without kids were cut off from the program over a nine-month period after they failed to meet the work requirement and exhausted their three months of time-limited benefits.

And I love this little piece of logic:

But Dem Rep. Deb Kolste, D-Janesville, said she wanted more details on the kinds of jobs participants obtained, wondering if the paychecks are enough. Kolste said she has no problem requiring those on food stamps to participate in job-training programs, but questioned cutting them off.

If we aren’t willing to cut them off, then what incentive do the participants have to do what they’re supposed to do? Clearly, the people who have dropped out of the program have made the calculation that they would rather give up the food stamps rather than go to training. Who are we to argue?





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