Wisconsin lawmakers are looking to reverse some of the severe cuts to the Badger State’s food stamp program, which would affect over 250,000 residents.
The cuts to the food stamp program were passed along with the state’s farm bill last year, and were supported by national political figures, including U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Leading the charge to resurrect funding for the program are state Reps. David Bowen and Jonathan Brostoff, both Democrats from Milwaukee.
“We know poverty is continuing to grow around the state in urban and rural areas," Bowen said. "At the end of the day, we’re talking about a lot of seniors … and families … many of whom worked to pay into the system. And now the safety net that was put in place so they can eat is not going to be there."
Roughly 255,000 Wisconsin residents have seen cuts to their FoodShare benefits program, which is funded through the federal government via SNAP, or the supplemental nutrition assistance program, the Journal Sentinel reported. One of these residents is Judy Beals, a disabled senior citizen who survives on $965 a month in Social Security payments. The recent cuts slashed Beals' monthly food stamp benefits from $120 to $16 a month, the Huffington Post reports.
"I was never notified," Beals told the Huffington Post. "... This isn't good for me. I'm eating once a day. I would love to be able to pay my bills, but I couldn't because the FoodShare thing made everything start to fall apart."
In the 2014 farm bill, legislators approved changes that raised the economic level for the state’s so-called “heat and eat” program. Prior to the farm bill, any resident who was eligible and received at least $1 in low-income energy benefits also received an increase in their food stamp benefits. In order to meet the requirements, the state of Wisconsin provided $1 to families that were not eligible so that all low-income families could receive the benefits.
With the passing of last year’s farm legislation, the state raised the requirement to $20 in low-income energy benefits, which exempted 255,000 Wisconsin residents from the benefits.
Now, Reps. Bowen and Brostoff have introduced a bill that would essentially reverse the changes. Under the proposed legislation, the $5.4 million in federal funding for energy programs would be used to increase contributions of ineligible residents from $1 to $21, thereby guaranteeing food stamp benefits for exempt residents.
Other states, such as Michigan and New Jersey, approved similar cuts to their entitlement programs, but have not attempted to reform their system to prior levels.