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Walker’s deal: Food stamps for job training

By   /   February 11, 2013  /   News  /   17 Comments

Part 2 of 20 in the series EBT Investigation

By M.D. Kittle |Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – Gov. Scott Walker has a message for single, able-bodied adults on food stamps in Wisconsin: You will train for food.

The Republican governor spent Monday traveling the state and laying out a nearly $100 million workforce development campaign, including reform of the state’s FoodShare Employment and Training Program.

Federal law requires able-bodied adults without dependent children to meet work or job training mandates as an eligibility condition for food stamps. Since 2008, Wisconsin’s food-for-work-or-training program has been administered on a voluntary basis.

Walker wants to take away that voluntary tag. He laid the groundwork last summer when his administration informed the U.S. Department of Agriculture the state intends to enforce the work-training requirement for single, able-bodied adults beginning July 2013.

Single, able-bodied adults receiving food stamps would have to enroll in a state-sponsored training program under a budget proposal by Gov. Scott Walker.

In short, qualifying FoodShare beneficiaries will have to enroll in employment and worker training programs through the state departments of Health Services, Children and Families or Workforce Development. If don’t, the beneficiaries will be “subject to federal time limits on nutrition assistance benefits.” Put another way, they can kiss their food stamps goodbye after their effective three months of standard eligibility.

Participation in employment programs for adults with dependent children, the elderly, and people with disabilities will remain voluntary.

Walker wants nearly $17 million in new state funding for his reform proposal, and about $17 million more would come from federal funding.

Currently, 46 states, including Wisconsin since 2002, have waivers exempting certain populations from this eligibility requirement, according to the Walker administration.

As of December, 6,289 FoodShare recipients were voluntarily enrolled in the employment training program in Wisconsin, and about 40 percent of those were able-bodied adults without dependent children, according to the state Department of Health Services, which administers FoodShare. More than 840,000 Wisconsin residents on average collected food stamps monthly in 2012, according to DHS.

Walker’s proposed policy change would require 76,000, single able-bodied adults to participate in a state-sponsored job training program, according to DHS.

Nationally, in fiscal year 2010, about 3.9 million able-bodied adults between 18 and 49 received food stamps in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, according to a Congressional Research Service Study. That’s an increase about 2 million beneficiaries since 2008.

About 47 million people collected food stamps at some point last year, according to the federal government.

While fiscal conservatives have long called for the return of stricter work and job training requirements tied to food stamps, the efficacy of such train-for-food initiatives remains in question.

A 2005 University of Wisconsin study reviews evidence that indicates “Use of labor market intermediaries for job placements, community colleges for training and a variety of efforst that involve local employers are found to be among the most promising approaches in improving job retention among low-income working adults.”

A 2003 federal Government Accountability Office study noted there were no nationwide data that existed on whether the Food Stamp Employment and Training programs helped participants get a job.

“While some outcome data exist at the state level, it is not clear the outcomes were the result of program participation,” the study notes.

At the time, USDA had no plans to evaluate the effectiveness of the program nor had the departments of Labor or Health and Human Services include Food Stamp Employment and Training participants in their studies of the hardest-to-employ.

Not much has changed over the past decade. A GAO spokesman said the federal agency hasn’t done any updated reviews on job training and food stamps.

GAO’s 2003 report still stands in many respects. The agency found Food Stamp Employment and Training participants are a small proportion of the food stamp population and do not usually receive cash assistance from other programs.

Program officials in 15 states contacted for the GAO study described the population as “generally hard to employ because they have little education and work history.”

That’s why tying job training to food stamps is so critical, proponents of the programs insist.

Jim Morgan, president of the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Foundation, said Wisconsin employers have posted plenty of job openings – even in an uneven economy. But those jobs remain vacant in large part due to a lack of skilled candidates, some not able to pass a basic drug test, others lacking basic work ethic.

“Members have told us they have offered a position and the applicant will say, “That would be great but could you wait six months? I have 26 weeks left on my unemployment compensation,” Morgan said.

“There needs to be an incentive, that if you’re going to continue to collect (food stamps), you have to be in a job training program.”

Contact Kittle at mkittle@wisconsinreporter.com

Part of 20 in the series EBT Investigation


M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.

  • Jack Lohman

    Every now and then Walker does something right, and this is it. We MUST make work-for-food a mandatory process, like Tommy’s welfare-for-work program. I’m not as happy with WHY he is doing it… so he can have cash for his corporate buddies. But I’ve learned not to criticize Scotty on this site.

  • Since you’re NOT criticizing, which corporate buddies?

  • Jack Lohman
  • That’s a list of contributions to his elections and NOT a list of monies from the State to corporate buddies. ALL politicians, D & R, receive them. Try comparing contributions to Obama’s campaigns to the monies that went back out to the failed green industries and get back to me about “corporate buddies.” since you’re NOT criticizing…..

  • Jack you have again disappointed me by your lack of humanity, and the fact that you’ve decided to pretend the Great Recession never happened. Wow, great time to put the hammer down. And what about Republican policies that off-shored jobs, done away with apprenticeships, taken corporate welfare, blames employees and their benefits for our economic woes? How about Walker and WMC’s push to make unemployment impossible to get? Nice one jack, now you want to take away their food. Brilliant.

  • Take away their food? “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” And, since you seem so fond of entitlements, teaching him a skill will ideally put him in the workforce, which provides more government revenue for those who really need it! And “Republican policies that off-shored jobs?” You may want to check into the results of your Lord & Savior’s drilling moratorium, increased taxes, increased EPA policies, etc. etc. And how about displaced jobs caused by unlimited illegal immigration?

  • Have not seen that site thanks for the post. It was interesting to see who contributed to the Gov then compare to Barrett. Those producing jobs and wealth gave overwhelmingly to the Gov. Glaring difference was Lawyers/Law Firms/Lobbyists who gave overwhelmingly to Barrett.

  • Idea is valid but being a process person I am looking at how this gets done and by whom. So this says $17 million for 3.9 million adults presumed to be trainable. Do we have assessment staff, training staff and placement assistance in place? Where will we house the training for that many people? Does this number include those who do not speak fluent English? non readers? other special needs? Which brings me to transportation to get people to and from training? If our current tech system, DVR, Work force development and W2 agencies to name the ones I know of were capable of doing the job it would be done already so where do we go? I will contact Walker with my questions. Any good idea will fail if the infrastructure is not there.

  • jane smith

    Thank You Governor Walker, for having a plan to stop the total insanity and waste regarding food stamps! I personally know of two adult males who are living with their mommies, leaching off the State, getting $200.00 a month in food stamps. They are both able bodied people capable of working, except for the fact that they are to lazy and are coddled by their mothers. Ages of these males are 39 and 30. They never look for a job and don’t want to work. Finally there is a plan for them to either look for work, actually get a job, or no more free meals compliments of the taxpayers. Great plan, Scott!.

  • Raymond St.Ange

    The Governor needs to be supported 100% on this. It will be a win/win for sure and motivating those to gain skills which are much needed.

  • Raymond St.Ange

    Valid questions

  • Freedom for all

    Where are the jobs Walker promised? Where are these retrained food share recipients going to find jobs? The vast majority of the few jobs created by Walker do not pay a living wage.
    If people can’t make enough to earn a deposit for an apartment on a Walker created minimum wage job in the first place, how will retraining help ?
    People that support Walker are extremely nieve about how many people actually do need serious help finding enough food.
    Walker is driven by his fear of the disadvantaged. He is petrified that an undeserving person might receive tax payer dollars. Omg that someone might not be motivated to look every single day for a minimum wage job.
    Better to let the deserving many suffer because of the actions of a few. Error on the side of collateral damage huh republicans?

  • Brian

    sounds like both of your repubs. and dems. really suck. they dont do anything that is in the best interest of the people. we need to get rid of both parties before this country can move forward. what jobs are they going to offer to train people on? will you just be forced to take whatever it is that they give you? entitlements are so people in this country dont starve, since there are no good jobs left in this country. so do we need to just work at walmart to just squeeze by? lower taxes for capital gains or get rid of the income tax and you will see business boom!

  • Brian

    how about that i have been looking for a job for the past 4 years and cant find anything. all the jobs i want have been taken by illegals in this state! why dont we do something about that? nope, that would be a bad thing right?! i want to be a chef and with my food share i have been teaching myself how to cook. are they going to offer that for one of the jobs or do i need to be a slave and take what they give me??

  • the52%

    I have to work for my food, why shouldn’t others?

  • Franseenit

    I recently had reason to use the Workforce Connection agency and I will tell all you self-righteous people down in Madison that they are the problem. They do not know what they are doing. They want me to go to job interviews that I have no skills for, doesn’t even come close to an adequate wage and they never consider my disabilities. That is where they should start – get this organization working to HELP PEOPLE with job interviews – job searches – sorry but 10 minutes of “do this and that” when you haven’t had to look for a job for 20+ years just doesn’t cut it. Their endless presentations aren’t addressing individual issues either and no one is available to answer ongoing questions/difficulties with their efforts. Sounds a lot like Darling and her cohorts

  • Leeann Boone

    I’ve been in one of those “training programs” for almost a year now and I’m no better off now than I was then!