Walker proposes new welfare work requirements

January 24, 2017

MADISON - Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker released plans for welfare reform with increased work requirements on Monday.

Walkerıs proposal would also require adults with children between age 6 and 18 to attend job training and search for work five days a week. It was part of a package of welfare reforms called "Wisconsin Works for Everyone" that Walker released during a series of news conferences across the state.

Under current state law, only childless adults in the FoodShare program have to meet the work requirement. They lose all food stamp benefits after three months of non-compliance. Benefits would be cut, but not eliminated, for families that could be affected by the new proposal. Details on how much benefits could be reduced, and how long parents would have to comply, will come in the governorıs budget released next month.

Walker is also calling for a similar work requirement for people receiving housing vouchers from the federal government.

Democrats and child advocates said the change it was counterproductive and would hurt more families than it would help. But Republican legislative leaders and the state chamber of commerce praised the idea as giving incentives to put more people back to work.

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who appeared with Walker in Madison and championed welfare reform in the 1990s, urged Democrats to get behind the effort like many did to his reforms 20 years ago.

"This could be a bipartisan opportunity to continue to change Wisconsin's face for the better," Thompson said. Republican state Senators Chris Kapenga of Delafield and Duey Stroebel of Cedarburg praised Walkerıs proposal. "Governor Thompson's welfare reform in the 1990ıs was revolutionary because
it identified employment as the primary vehicle to move out of poverty," said Kapenga. "I applaud Governor Walker for introducing a plan that builds on these reforms, recognizing that family, gainful employment, and education are the keys to self-sufficiency." "Our goal is to transition the government from the role of provider to connector, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to realize their full potential and improve their lives." "Government assistance is a safety net for those who need it. The governor's proposal seeks to reconnect those out of the workforce with employment through needed reforms," said Stroebel. "These ideas make it easier to climb the economic ladder. I look forward to continuing to work with the governor and my legislative
colleagues on a path to ensure those most in need receive the education, training, and jobs they need to succeed in Wisconsin."

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jen Shilling said the proposal makes it hard for poor families to get benefits while the state hands out millions of dollars in tax breaks to wealthy corporations "with no strings attached."

Walkerıs proposals could require law changes by Congress and waivers from President Donald Trumpıs administration before taking effect. They would also have to pass the Republican-controlled state Legislature. 

Walker has said he hopes to work closely with the Trump administration on various initiatives, including welfare reform. Walker is expected to seek a third term in 2018 and will be spelling out his priorities for the next two years in the state budget he releases in February.

The new work requirement would start as a pilot program in several counties, Walker said.


Associated Press