The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued new guidance on April 1 that will ensure all FoodShare households receive a minimum amount of emergency benefits. Households began receiving these benefits over the weekend. DHS estimates that under this new guidance Wisconsin will provide more than $75 million in emergency allotments to over 411,000 FoodShare households in April. This is an increase over the $57.5 million in emergency allotments we provided to 265,000 households in February. More households are able to receive emergency allotments because of this change in federal policy. Households receiving the maximum monthly benefit are now eligible to get the emergency allotment. Households will spend these resources at grocers and farmer’s markets across the state. Wisconsin is able to provide these benefits after Governor Evers reached an agreement earlier this month with the USDA to meet the federal requirement for a state public health emergency and maintain Wisconsin’s ability to provide enhanced food assistance to people across the state.
Created under the federal Families First Coronavirus Emergency Response Act, emergency allotments are additional benefits provided to people eligible for FoodShare to supplement their food budgets in response to the pandemic. Prior to this new guidance, emergency allotments were provided to people eligible for FoodShare up to the maximum allotment determined by household size. If a household was already receiving the maximum allotment, they received no additional benefits. The new federal guidance requires that DHS provide no less than $95 to each FoodShare household in emergency supplemental FoodShare allotment or benefit.
“We know that people who are already receiving the maximum amount in FoodShare benefits are often members of households that are the most in need and have very little disposable income,” said Karen Timberlake, Secretary-designee of DHS. “This new guidance provides much needed relief to those families, allowing them to not only purchase more food, but also to use their resources to pay other bills.”
How much a household receives in regular FoodShare benefits is determined by a number of factors, including but not limited to: the number of people in the household, income, and allowable expenses. Below are three scenarios that illustrate the kinds of effects the new guidance could have on people eligible for FoodShare in Wisconsin:
- Example 1: Based on reported income and deductions, a one-person household normally receives a regular amount of $50 in monthly benefits if there wasn’t a pandemic. In recent months, they have been receiving an emergency allotment of $184 to bring them to the maximum amount for their household size ($234). They will experience no change as a result of the new guidance, as they are already receiving an emergency allotment of more than $95. The total FoodShare benefit (regular amount plus emergency allotment) this household will receive is $234.
- Example 2: Based on reported income and deductions, a one-person household normally receives a regular amount of $144 in monthly benefits if there wasn’t a pandemic. In recent months, they have been receiving an emergency allotment of $90, to bring them to the maximum amount for their household size ($234). This household will now receive an additional $5 so that they receive the minimum emergency allotment of $95. The total FoodShare benefit (regular amount plus emergency allotment) the household will receive under the new guidance is $239.
- Example 3: Based on reported income and deductions, a one-person household normally receives a regular amount of $234 in monthly benefits if there wasn’t a pandemic. In recent months, they have received no emergency allotment because $234 is the maximum for their household size. This household will now receive the $95 minimum emergency allotment. The total FoodShare benefit (regular amount plus emergency allotment) the household will receive under the new guidance is $329.
Households receiving FoodShare are being notified of this change via notification letters (or emails for those members who have shared their addresses with DHS). They can check the balance on their QUEST cards at any time through the ebtEDGE website, the ebtEDGE mobile app, or by calling QUEST Card Service at 877-415-5164. Anyone interested in finding out if they can receive FoodShare can find out more about the program and how to apply on the DHS website.