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After Governor Scott Walker announced changes to the state’s welfare program W-2, the federal Food and Nutrition Service provided more clarity on two exemptions to its FoodShare work requirements.

Walker plans to outline the changes in his budget address on Feb. 8.

Welfare Parents Would Be Required To Work Or Do Job Training

The changes include extending work requirements for adults with school-age children receiving FoodShare and housing assistance. This includes requiring “parents with children ages six to 18 years old to work 80 hours a month or participate in job training to maintain their benefits,” according to a story by Fox 6.

“Wisconsin Works for Everyone, like Governor Thompson’s original W-2 initiative, is based on the fundamental principle that work is dignifying and connects individuals to society and to its values,” Walker said. “We believe our public assistance programs should ask able-bodied adults to take steps toward self-sufficiency through work, while also providing comprehensive tools to help them get and keep a job.”

The proposal also seeks to increase funding for job and skills training for people who are unemployed or underemployed. In addition, it will focus on reducing barriers to work and increase earnings by expanding programs. Walker also plans seek federal waivers under the Trump administration.

“This set of initiatives is focused on helping those disconnected from employment realize their potential in the workforce,” Walker said. “We have every intention of leading the nation when it comes to helping people create better lives for themselves and their families through work, just like Governor Thompson. Looking forward, we will take every opportunity to facilitate our citizens’ success in Wisconsin’s workforce.”

Feds Clarify FoodShare Criteria

On the heels of the announcement, the federal Food and Nutrition Service provided clarified that people unfit for employment and those who are participating in alcohol or other drug abuse treatment or rehabilitation programs are exempt from the work requirement.

Disabled veterans are also exempt if they meet the following criteria:

  • A veteran with a disability rated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as total or paid as total by the VA
  • A veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran who the VA considers to be either in need of regular aid and attendance or permanently housebound
  • A surviving child of a veteran who the VA considers to be permanently unable to support himself or herself
  • A surviving spouse or a surviving child of a veteran who the VA considers to be entitled to compensation for a service-connected death or to pension benefits for a non-service-connected death and who has a disability considered permanent by the Social Security Administration

In some circumstances a person may be a disabled veteran, but may still be unfit for employment and be exempt.

People participating in 12-step programs for alcohol or narcotics will not be considered exempt. People meeting the exemption criteria for alcohol or other drug abuse treatment or rehabilitation will need to be in a certified treatment program Like:

  • A medically managed inpatient service
  • A medically monitored treatment service
  • A day treatment service
  • An outpatient treatment service
  • A transitional residential treatment service
  • A narcotic treatment service for opiate addiction

However, if an applicant or member has a drug or alcohol addiction that may make employment unobtainable, he or she may meet the unfit for employment exemption due to being physically or mentally incapable of working. As a result, the applicant or member would be exempt from both the FoodShare work registration requirements and the work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents.

If you have questions about these clarifications, email DHS ForwardHealth Partners.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.