Gov. Scott Walker announced Monday that parents who receive food stamps must work at least 80 hours a month if his proposed package of welfare changes are approved.
That reform would place parents on the same level as non-parents, who are already subject to that requirement. The governor traveled around the state to announce the proposed reforms, which include other ideas such as easing parents off child care assistance from the state as their income rises and expanding programs that help people enter the workforce.
Walker plans to include the reform package, “Wisconsin Works for Everyone,” in his 2017-19 state budget. More details about the reform package will be released with the budget.
“We’re good and decent people in this state,” Walker said Monday in Eau Claire. “We’re willing to help people when they’re down and out. But we firmly believe that public assistance should be a trampoline, not a hammock.”
Walker said the goal is to help more people become self-sustaining rather than staying on government assistance for extended periods of time. Since April 2015, about 21,000 able-bodied food stamp recipients have found work and about 64,000 have lost their benefits, according to The Associated Press.
Part of Walker’s proposals requires federal law changes before they could take effect — currently, parents with school-age children are exempt from the working requirements Walker wants to implement. Walker said he hopes to have approval within the next six months.
Sen. Terry Moulton, R-town of Seymour, who was present at Walker’s news conference on Monday, said Walker’s ideas are great for removing barriers between welfare participants and the workforce. He said some people worry about taking a job or promotion because their benefits might disappear, and Walker’s plans could help dissolve some of those worries.
“If we can set those things up on a sliding scale, so that there’s not a disincentive to take that promotion or job, it’s going to be great for employers, it’s going to be great for the economy, and it’s going to be great for those individuals who are on those government-assisted programs,” Moulton said. “I think it’s a win-win situation.”
Walker said parents who do not meet the 80-hour per month requirement will still receive benefits for their children. It’s not yet clear how it will be ensured that only parents are affected. Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, has not yet seen the details of Walker’s proposed changes, but said he’s interested in ensuring that children are a priority.
“Any modifications to this program need to be tailored in a way that children aren’t the victims,” Wachs said. “Obviously all of us, on both sides of the aisle, want to put as many people to work as humanly possible.”
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