FoodShare Employment & Training
As of June 2017, over 76,160 FoodShare recipients have lost their benefits due to the FoodShare Employment & Training (FSET) program.
What is FSET?
FSET is a program intended to help FoodShare recipients find a job. As of 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 sign up for 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, 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. 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.
Recently, the state of Wisconsin released data on its FSET program from April 2015 through June 2017. The state has touted the program as a success, but ignores the overwhelmingly negative impact the work requirement has had on hungry individuals.
- While 29,211 new employments have been recorded, more than one employment per person can be counted
- 20,708 individuals have reported to have gained employment
- 76,165 FoodShare participants were disenrolled
- For every 1 person that found employment, 3 FoodShare participants were disenrolled. The ratio gets worse in Region 10 (Dane County), where there were 3.8 disenrollments for every 1 placement, and in Region 9 (La Crosse) where an astounding 6.6 people lost FoodShare for every 1 person who found employment.
- An average of 41% of FSET enrollee program activity is categorized as “Job Search”
- 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. They don’t take those individuals into account when making their calculations.
The above graph looks at the Milwaukee County unemployment rate and number of FoodShare recipients. 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 5%, meaning more people will need to use emergency food.
How does Milwaukee County compare with the rest of the state?
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.