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Report: Walker Proposal Could Reduce Food Stamp Participation

The state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau has released a report on the possible impact of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to require food stamp recipients to work.

The measure, which is part of Walker’s biennial budget, would require FoodShare participants to work and/or take part in employment and training programs for at least 20 hours a week. The requirement would apply to single, childless adults between the ages of 18 and 50, who are physically and mentally fit for employment.

The bureau says it is difficult to estimate how many people would fulfill the work requirement; however, the agency says the Wisconsin Department of Health Services estimates that half of the participants would drop out. The bureau says the estimate is based both on the experience of Delaware, when that state began imposing a work requirement, and on the drop in participation in Wisconsin, when a different food stamp training program was made voluntary in 2008.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau says under federal law, able-bodied food stamp participants are limited to three months of benefits in a three-year period, if they are not working or participating in at least 20 hours of employment training a week. However, most states waive the work requirement.

The bureau says if Wisconsin were to require work in exchange for benefits, the state would not see a cost savings, because FoodShare benefits are 100 percent federally funded. Meanwhile, the state could incur costs, related to implementing the policy.

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance is expected to vote on the proposal on Tuesday.

Ann-Elise is WUWM's news director.