FoodShare Employment & Training
How Many People Can We Serve Before We Run Out Of Food?
On April 1, 2015, Wisconsin’s FoodShare program changed in a major way. All nonexempt able bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) on FoodShare must comply with a work requirement, take part in FoodShare Employment Training (FSET), or face a three-month time limitation on their FoodShare benefits.
Since July 2015, all able-bodied adults compelled to enroll in FSET who fail to meet program mandates were dropped from FoodShare for three years.
Hunger and the need for emergency food is already increasing in Milwaukee County due to this policy. Milwaukee, like many areas of the state, qualifies as a “labor-surplus area.” There are significantly fewer available jobs compared to the number of people looking for work. The good news is that Governor Walker can request a waiver from the “time-limited benefits” for any labor-surplus area.
On April 11, 2016, over 25 organizations across the state called on the governor to request this waiver.
READ: Letter to Governor Walker requesting hunger relief for over 30,000 Wisconsinites
READ: Press Release on 25 Wisconsin organizations calling on Governor Walker to request a “time-limited benefits” waiver for areas where the economy is struggling.
READ: Gov. Walker’s Form Letter Response
UPDATE (10/17/2016): Governor Walker declared this a “mission accomplished” after over 50,000 individuals have lost their FoodShare benefits. Read our response to Governor Walker HERE
Recently, the state of Wisconsin released data on its FoodShare Employment & Training (FSET) program from April through June of 2016. The state has touted the program as a success, but ignores the overwhelmingly negative impact the work requirement has had on hungry individuals.
- The state boasts of an $11.93 average hourly wage and 32.4 average hourly weekly hours for participants but glosses over the fact that 62% of FSET participants are earning a wage of $0/hr and zero hours worked. They don’t take these individuals into account when making their calculations.
- While they report that 14,401 FSET participants gained employment from April 2015-June 2016, 50,666 FoodShare participants were disenrolled during the same period. In fact, for every 1 person that found employment, 4.23 FoodShare participants were disenrolled. The ratio gets much worse in Region 10 (mostly Dane County) where there were 8 disenrollments for every 1 placement or Region 9 in LaCrosse where an astounding 19 people lost FoodShare for every 1 person who found employment.
- In fact, between November and December of 2015 the number of people that were disenrolled from FoodShare almost equaled the number of people who were referred to the program across Milwaukee County.
- From April 2015 to March of 2016, 79,399 FoodShare participants in Wisconsin were referred to the FSET program in a non-voluntary manner. From this group almost two-thirds (63.8%) were dropped from FoodShare assistance. The work requirement was supposed to incentivize job training, but the vast majority of people lose their food assistance and are more likely to have to depend on food pantries and soup kitchens.
Hunger Task force continues to see increased demand, month after month, for emergency food offered at Milwaukee food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Poorly executed welfare reforms are increasing hunger in the dairy state.
The chart above compares the sharp decrease of FoodShare participants in Milwaukee County with our pantry service numbers for adults. With an improving economy, we’d expect our service numbers to decline somewhat proportionally with a drop in FoodShare enrollment. However our service numbers are above normal, suggesting that individuals cut off from FoodShare are still struggling with feeding themselves.
The increase in food pantry visits is even more disturbing considering that unemployment is dropping along with the number of people on FoodShare.
The above graph looks at the Milwaukee County unemployment rate and number of FoodShare recipients in 2015. Thanks to FSET data released by DHS, we can project what FoodShare recipient numbers would have looked like in the county without disenrollment from FSET.
In fact, only since January has disenrollment for all other regions combined surpassed Milwaukee County’s disenrollment. This reflects lower referral rates in Milwaukee County from October to December of 2015 rather than a change in the disenrollment rate.
Considering that Milwaukee County is home to 34% of the state’s FoodShare recipients, the disenrollment numbers compared with the rest of the state as a whole are still striking.
Milwaukee County, or Region 2, is the only region with a nearly 10% reduction of their FoodShare enrollment. This is double the rate that other regions are experiencing.
Hunger Task Force Executive Director, Sherrie Tussler, has made a request to Secretary of Health Services Kitty Rhoades to save “an entire population of people from hunger” and request a waiver for Milwaukee County from the time limit requirement under FSET. You can read the letter here.
You can also read the USDA letter to the state placing the Department of Health Services in corrective action following federal violations committed by ResCare in Milwaukee County. FNS Correspondence to State WI ET Visit – 10-14-15
The State of Wisconsin responded to the request 60 days later. You can read the letter here.
Hunger Task Force remains interested in a well-run program and requested copies of the State’s proof of corrective action. Read here.
The State of Wisconsin responded treating our request as an open record request. You can read the letter here.