Wisconsin Democrats blast federal proposal, point to analysis showing 76K could lose food stamps

MADISON — Wisconsin Democrats blasted a federal proposal Tuesday that would impose new work and job training requirements for food stamps Tuesday, pointing to a new analysis that shows the measure could force nearly 76,000 state residents out of the program.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling and state Rep. Lisa Subeck called a news conference to release a report from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau on the GOP-authored bill.

According to the report, the bill would prohibit anyone who doesn't receive federal cash assistance or receive services for the needy funded with federal grants from participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The program provides food aid for more than 40 million people.

According to the LFB analysis, 11.1 percent of Wisconsin food stamp recipients would likely lose their eligibility under the bill. That would translate to 75,720 of 682,924 recipients.

About 23,370 children would likely lose food stamp eligibility and with it lose automatic eligibility for free and reduced school lunches, the analysis found. The children's parents would have to reapply separately for free and reduced lunches.

Wisconsin as a whole would lose about $23.8 million in food stamp benefits, the analysis found. The state received about $867.2 million in food stamp benefits last year.

Shilling and Subeck said at the news conference Republicans are trying to find ways to offset revenue lost due to the federal tax overhaul on the backs of hungry children.

"It's bad enough Republicans fought to give millionaires another tax break," Shilling said in a news release she handed out to reporters at the news conference. "But then to turn around and deny low-income children access to food? It's unthinkable. How can Republican politicians justify these horribly misplaced priorities that favor the wealthy at the expense of vulnerable children?"

The bill cleared the GOP-run House Agriculture Committee last month despite Democrats' charges that it would remove up to 2 million people from food stamp rolls.

Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas is the bill's lead author. His spokeswoman, Emily Hytha, referred questions to Rachel Millard, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Committee.

Millard called the Democrats' complaints "scare tactics." She said anyone who loses eligibility because they don't receive federal assistance could reapply for food stamps by meeting other standards, such as an asset test.

"The reality is when you get into the fine print of our bill, this is really about providing services to those in greatest need," Millard said.