In Wisconsin, the changes failed the vast majority of participants “cost taxpayers $283 per enrollee, per month. That’s more than double what the average SNAP recipient received during the same time period and nearly twice what the Walker administration predicted it would cost,” according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, as the story reports.
The new company running Wisconsin’s program, Maximus, currently has a contract to run Indiana’s work programs for SNAP and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). “In that contract,” a story by Mother Jones reports, “the company estimates it will see 93,000 clients and earn about $9.1 million each year. But it expects fewer than 200 people annually will find and keep jobs for at least six months.”
The Wisconsin program is something of a model for the administration of President Donald Trump, whose Department of Agriculture has proposed a rule whereby 2.8 million able-bodied adults without dependents would become subject to work requirements in order to maintain their eligibility for SNAP benefits.
Wisconsin’s Democratic U.S. Tammy Baldwin is among a a bipartisan group of 47 Senators led by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who wrote a bipartisan letter urging Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to withdraw the proposal.
“The proposed changes would take food assistance away from Americans struggling to find stable employment while doing nothing to help them to actually become permanently employed,” the letter from the senators noted. “This is contrary to Congressional intent, evidenced by the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which rejected similar harmful changes to SNAP and passed Congress by a historic vote of 87-13 in the Senate and by 369-47 in the House of Representatives.”
Baldwin and Milwaukee’s Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore have also opposed the program in Wisconsin since Walker first proposed it. The program is “not the product of analysis or sound policy making,” Moore says. “If supporters of these work requirements actually wanted to help poor people access employment opportunities and gain stable jobs, they would eliminate the actual barriers to work for poor and working-class people, like the dearth of public transportation or access to affordable childcare, and not erect new barriers to accessing public assistance. As shown by the experience of Rescare in Milwaukee County, punitive work requirements fail the people on the program that they are supposed to serve and they fail society at large.”
Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services did not respond to requests for comments from the reporter for The New Food Economy and is now run by a Tony Evers, a Democratic governor who has inherited a long list of Walker policies and programs he may want to change. This program is clearly one that needs some serious rethinking.