MADISON (WITI) -- Starting Wednesday, April 1st -- major changes to Wisconsin's FoodShare program, and those changes aren't without controversy. The food stamp program will now involve work requirements for able-bodied adults who do not have children -- but some are calling it a "pink slip" for the poor.
State officials say making these changes will push people back into the workforce, but officials with programs that help those in need expect the opposite.
The Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee helps the hungry -- distributing more than 10 million pounds of food each year to area food pantries, but big changes to Wisconsin's FoodShare program have Hunger Task Force Director Sherrie Tussler concerned the Hunger Task Force may soon be overwhelmed.
"It is an attack on the poor. There just won't be enough food," Tussler said.
Starting April 1st, FoodShare recipients ages 18 to 49 (who do not have any minor children) will be required to work for their benefits.
The work requirement rules will affect members who have a renewal or apply for FoodShare benefits on and after April 1st, 2015.
If you are an adult age 18 through 49, there are four ways you can meet your work requirement:
- Work at least 80 hours each month.
- Take part in an allowable work program such as FSET, Wisconsin Works (W-2) or certain programs under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) at least 80 hours each month.
- Both work and take part in an allowable work program for a combined total of at least 80 hours each month.
- Take part in and meet the requirements of a workfare program.
Those who choose not to meet the work requirement will only get three months of FoodShare benefits in a 36-month (three-year) period until they meet the work requirement, become exempt, or the 36-month period has passed.
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"It`s really designed to get people into work training to help them move back into the workforce," Wisconsin Medicaid Director Kevin Moore said.
State officials say this will reduce dependency on government assistance.
"The ultimate goal here is to get people into the workforce, getting them good paying jobs, so they can help support their families outside of government support," Moore said.
Tussler says these changes will have the opposite effect. She's worried stricter FoodShare requirements will force people off the program and into food pantries.
"We are telling people they will work or they will go hungry and those are their two choices," Tussler said.
Tussler has been working to make folks aware of the changes coming April 1st so the final outcome isn't devastating.
"We`ve effectively given a pink slip to the poor," Tussler said.
Some may be exempt from the work requirement rules, including people with health problems, women who may be pregnant and people caring for children.