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Politics & Government

Some FoodShare Recipients Must Find Work or Enroll in Job Training

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A major change to Wisconsin’s FoodShare program took effect this week. Starting April 1, able-bodied adults with no dependent children must work at least 20 hours a week or enroll in a job training program. If not, they’ll lose food stamp benefits.

We visited a public assistance center on Milwaukee’s near north side to talk to people about the new rule. Marie Peete says she has no problem with Wisconsin’s new rule.

“It’s a really good requirement. It would get people off their lazy bottoms, get up and get a job and take care of their families. That’s how I feel. I work. I take care of my kids. It’s hard, but I do it,” Peete says.

Peete is a nursing assistant. She comes here – to the Marcia Coggs Human Services Center, to get child care assistance. James Wilson is helping a friend with a disability pick up a few groceries. Wilson says he works third shift at a catalog company and supports the new requirement for able-bodied adults.

“I think it’s a good thing because it’s my tax money that’s helping provide for all of this anyway,” Wilson says.

Another person who’s come to the center today, to pick up food, calls the new requirement crazy. April Williams has several children with her and is loading grocery bags into her car. Williams says jobs are still hard to find.

“They’re not really giving out jobs so I don’t see the problem with giving somebody some FoodShare. Why would you cut them off for three months?” Williams asks.

Wisconsin’s new rule gives people three months to find work or enroll in job training, before food benefits would end. Lisa Williams, a chef at a local restaurant, fears some people will go hungry.

“That’s the part that’s going to hurt people. I know there’s a lot of pantries out here that don’t have food to keep giving. I think there’s going to be a lot of starving kids,” Williams says.

Nobody needs to go hungry, according to Kevin Moore. He oversees FoodShare. Moore says Gov. Walker has set aside $37 million in his budget to support job training programs. The state will refer able-bodied people who receive food benefits, to several agencies that will link them with training opportunities.

“The key word here is for able-bodied adults, making sure they’re provided the services they need and as long as they’re receiving the training, as long as they’re continuing to develop their skills, they’re getting out there, getting a job, they’re going to continue receiving FoodShare benefits and as they continue to move up the ladder, they’re not going to need access to those FoodShare benefits,” Moore says.

Moore says that’s the state’s ongoing goal - to move people off public assistance. The new rule, requiring a work component for food benefits, will roll-out statewide over the next year.

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