FoodShare Employment & Training
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) as of March 2018, 87,661 FoodShare recipients have lost their benefits due to the FoodShare Employment & Training (FSET) program. These are the most recent numbers DHS released in May 2018.
What is FSET?
FSET is a program intended to help FoodShare recipients find a job. On April 1, 2015, all able bodied adults without dependents (people ages 18 through 49 with no children under 18 living in the same household), were required to work or participate in FSET in order to keep their FoodShare benefits. If a person does not comply with the FSET requirements, they would face a three-month time limitation on their FoodShare benefits, meaning they will lose their benefits for the next 36 months until the work requirements have been met, they are exempt, or three years have passed.
Why is this program ineffective?
Hunger and the need for emergency food has already increased in Milwaukee County due to this policy. 2-1-1 responded to 43,457 requests for food in 2017, a 6% increase over 2016. The City of Milwaukee, like many areas of the state, qualifies as a labor-surplus area (LSA). This means that there are significantly fewer available jobs compared to the number of people looking for work. Governor Walker could request a waiver from the time-limited benefits for all LSAs in Wisconsin, but has yet to do so.
The state has touted the program as a success, but ignores the overwhelmingly negative impact the work requirement has had on hungry individuals.
While 40,421 new employments have been recorded, more than one employment per person can be counted.
- 27,005 individuals have reported to have gained employment
- 87,661 FoodShare participants lost their benefits due to time-limited benefits (TLBs)
- An average of 41% of FSET enrollee program activity is categorized as “Job Search”. There is no clear definition of activity categories. Only 5% is categorized as “Work Experience.”
- The state boasts an $11.93 average hourly wage and 32.4 average weekly hours for participants, but glosses over the fact that 62% of FSET participants are earning a wage of $0/hour and zero hours worked. The state does not take those individuals into account when making their calculations.
The graph above looks at the statewide number of FoodShare recipients and the rate of unemployment for the state. FoodShare participation is supposed to trail trends in unemployment, however, we can see that the number of FoodShare recipients continues to drop despite an unemployment rate averaging around 3.5%, meaning more people will need to use emergency food.
FoodShare recipient numbers have gone down the last two years-there is a difference of 151,482 individuals that received FoodShare in April 2015 compared to those who received FoodShare in March 2018. 57.9% (87,661 out of 151,482) of this drop could be due to individuals who were disenrolled from FoodShare due to TLBs.
How does Milwaukee County compare with the rest of the state?
Milwaukee County has the highest percentage of FoodShare disenrollment of the 11 FSET regions across the state. 42,088 individuals have lost their FoodShare benefits due to TLBs. For every new employment, 2.3 individuals lost their FoodShare benefits.
Considering that Milwaukee County is home to 35% of the state’s FoodShare recipients, the disenrollment numbers compared with the rest of the state as a whole are striking. As of March 2017, Milwaukee County, or Region 2, is the only region with a 43% disenrollment rate, meaning that 43% of individuals being referred to the FSET program are losing FoodShare due to time-limited benefits.