Public Policy & Advocacy

Take action for a healthy, hunger-free and thriving Wisconsin

The state budget bills (AB 64 and SB 30) include a number of provisions that would reduce access to FoodShare for up to 100,000 of our friends and neighbors. At the same time, they would also expand important programs EITC and the WisconsinShares program that help working Wisconsin families with low-incomes.

The state budget process is also an important opportunity to urge our policymakers to take the Medicaid expansion provided under the ACA to fight hunger, improve health and strengthen local communities by saving hundreds of millions of dollars through the recovery of federal funds.

These are important choices that our legislators will be making over the next few months that will affect our state's ability to take steps forward toward a healthy, hunger-free and thriving Wisconsin.

Please take a moment to reach out to the Joint Finance Committee about these important issues with our easy letter writing tool. Simply enter your address information below so that you can join hundreds of Hunger Fighters and Health Champions throughout the state by personalizing a letter to your state legislators that encourages them to:

  • Support the expansion of the EITC and Wisconsin Shares program
  • Oppose the FoodShare limitations
  • Take the Medicaid expansion

Email is always good but a phone call is better!



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  • Issue Background

    In February, the Governor outlined a set of proposed welfare reforms in his state budget plan. These included extending a work requirement to adults with children as a condition for FoodShare eligibility, drug testing for FoodShare benefits, and implement an asset test as an eligibility criteria.


    The proposals were included in the state budget bills (AB 64 and SB 30).



    FoodShare Proposal: Work Requirements for Adults with Children



    While we believe that a good job is the best hunger-fighting tool and broadly share the Governor’s goals of fighting hunger by increasing employment, we also know that mandating an overly broad, one-size fits all work requirement does not address the real challenges that many of our clients face when trying to engage with the labor and training market, such as access to affordable, quality childcare and transportation. 



    We would support fine-tuning existing employment and training programs to better assess, understand, and address the barriers that FoodShare participants face in obtaining available jobs or enrolling in training programs. This would be a far more effective use of vital taxpayer dollars. 


    FoodShare Proposal: Drug Testing



    The rise of opioid addition is a very real public health crisis and we support efforts to screen and provide treatment to people dealing with health crisis of addiction. However, drug testing as a condition for FoodShare benefits is a separate issue and is currently illegal.



    People who have low-incomes do not abuse drugs at a higher rate than those who have high incomes and by casting such a broad net, the policy would be expensive for the state and counties to implement.



    The FoodShare program already legally drug tests former drug felons as a condition for benefits and so in this way, drug testing is also duplicative of targeted, existing measures.

    FoodShare Proposal: Asset Testing



    The budget proposal also includes implementing an asset test, which would limit anyone with assets in excess of $25,000 to be eligible for the program. 

We oppose this measure because it creates a perverse incentive for families and individuals to forgo saving for the future for the fear of falling on hard times.

    The habit of saving is a foundation to create a better future and we ought to be encouraging everybody to save money without fear that their eligibility for nutrition assistance if they lose a job may be in jeopardy. 

Since the average FoodShare recipient only has about $300 in assets, this test could potentially penalize middle income families who have worked hard and played by the rules.

    For example, a family should not have to liquidate their 401K in to qualify for FoodShare if the parents experience employment instability. They should not be forced to spend down their savings in order to qualify for food assistance.

    Asset test issue brief

    The Earned Income Tax Credit



    The budget propsal would direct an addition $20 million toward expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for families with low-income with children. Their maximum benefit would increase from $135 to $371.



    Also, the proposal would soften the so-called marriage penalty by allowing newly married couples the option to choose the higher credit that would benefit them the most for three years after their marriage.

    WisconsinShares



    Funding for Wisconsin's childcare subsidy program known as Wisconsin Shares would see significant increases (over $30 million over the baseline) over the two year biennium. The budget proposal would mitigate the effects of the "benefit cliff" that families may experience once their income rises above 200% of the federal poverty line.



    A similar asset test as proposed with the FoodShare program would also be effect for this program.



    Medicaid Expansion



    Wisconsin has not chosen to take Medicaid expansion under ACA where the Federal government would have increased its funding to cover up to 90% of Medicaid expenditures. By choosing to take a hybrid expansion, our state has chosen to pay its own way without the help of Federal funds. While this has expanded coverage to some low-income families, it has also been an expensive choice for the state since the state has chosen to pay its own way for a limited expansion rather than the full expansion where the federal government would pay for up to 90% of costs.



    Now that the Affordable Care Act will remain the law of the land for the time being, Wisconsin could choose to take Medicaid expansion today, which would save hundreds of millions every year. These recovered federal funds could be reinvested locally to create jobs, expand education, or other priorities that would to move us forward toward healthy, hunger-free and thriving Wisconsin communities.