Nearly 15,000 Wisconsin residents have lost their food stamp benefits because they refused to seek out employment, according to reports Sunday.
The new work requirements went into full effect back in April, and residents had until July to comply. Under the new FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) qualifications, recipients are required to work or be actively seeking employment. In the first three months, 15,000 recipients were dropped from the program, reports the Wisconsin State Journal.
“The FSET program was created to help guide able-bodied adults back into the workforce, or put them on the path to gainful employment while remaining onFoodShare,” Republican state Rep. Mark Born said in a statement, according to Right Wisconsin. “So far we have seen thousands of individuals follow the FSETprogram and secure employment as a result. It is important we continue to enact reforms and transition people from reliance on government to independence.”
The new rules requires able-bodied adults without children to work at least 80 hours a month or be actively seeking employment. The figures were released by the state Department of Health Services in response to an open records request.
The federal government used to require similar work requirements but began granting waivers to states in response to the 2007 recession. States like Louisiana have have let their waivers expire. Other states have also considered doing the same. The food stamp program is officially known as The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It is run by The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in partnership with state agencies.
While many were dropped, approximately 4,500 recipients in the state were able to find work through a new job training program. Roughly 770,000 state residents receive food stamps.
Not everyone believes ending the waiver is a good idea. Sherrie Tussler, executive director of the Hunger Task Force, warned the requirements could put undue stress on nonprofits and charities. The end result could be food banks becoming bankrupt.
“The Department of Health Services must understand that a substantial increase in the need for emergency food caused by a loss of food buying power (FoodShare) will result in wide scale shortages in Milwaukee,” Tussler wrote in a letter, obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal, to state officials.
According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program has increased nationwide from 17 million participants in 2000 to nearly 47 million in 2014. The improved economy has helped decrease the number of participants in recent years. The Congressional Budget Office found, since participation hit its peak in December 2012, the number of people receiving benefits has declined by more than 1.5 million.