By Karen Stokes
Starting April 1, FoodShare program rules will be changing in the state of Wisconsin.
Not only will benefits be reduced, but all able bodied adults between the ages of 18-49 with no minor children living in the home may now need to meet work requirements.
The rules will affect FoodShare members who are renewing or applying for benefits on or after April 1st.
FoodShare was created to help low-income families and individuals save money on groceries, stop hunger and promote healthy nutrition.
According to the Department of Health Services, there are three ways to meet the work requirement: to work at least 80 hours each month, to take part in an allowable work program as FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET), Wisconsin Works (W-2) or certain programs under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) at least 80 hours each month, and to take part in an allowable work program for a combined total of at least 80 hours each month.
Those who do not comply can only receive benefits for 90 days for over three years until they meet the work requirement.
Hunger Task Force and Feeding Wisconsin are two food pantries that are concerned about the supply and their ability to service.
“Most people will not be aware of the change until they attend their annual renewal appointment,” said Sherrie Tussler, executive director Hunger Task Force.
Hunger Task Force serves 34,000 people a month and Tussler is concerned about the ability to serve an increasing population in need.
“I’m worried that we won’t be able to manage the people in line for food,” Tussler said.
“It’s going to hurt people, at least 66,000 will be affected.
In April of 2016, we anticipate that we will begin to experience a food shortage.”
“In his 2013-2015 biennial budget, as part of his workforce development plan and entitlement reforms, Governor Walker invested nearly $33 million in FoodShare worker training to reform the FSET by using a regional model to provide employment and training services and requiring able-bodied adults without dependent children to meet work or job training requirements as a condition of eligibility for FoodShare benefits,” said Claire Yunker, Communications Specialist, Department of Health Services.
“The focus of the FSET program is on helping individuals gain the employment and training services that they need to transition to the workforce,” Yunker said.
“This is affecting people throughout the state,” said David Lee, Executive Director of Feeding Wisconsin. “Job training program may not be an effective solution to the problem. The jobs training program may not train for the jobs that are available.
We need the right skills for the right people for the right jobs.”
“People may drop out of the program and this may increase the need for service,” said Lee.
“It will present challenges. Feeding Wisconsin serves 60,000 unique monthly visitors a month at 251 affiliated local food programs.