Governor Walker introduces new welfare reforms
STAR JOURNAL REPORT
Governor Scott Walker says he wants to expand Tommy Thompson’s W-2 welfare program by adding more work requirements for people receiving state assistance and beefing up the state’s job training programs for unemployed and underemployed adults.
Walker announced “Wisconsin Works for Everyone,” a welfare reform package expanding upon initiatives enacted into law by Governor Tommy Thompson in 1996. Walker is traveling to Milwaukee, Green Bay, Eau Claire, and Madison to highlight the proposal and will be joined by Governor Thompson today in Madison.
“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,” said Governor Walker. “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 Wisconsin Works for Everyone proposal we’re introducing today includes reforms to ensure that programs serve as springboards to self-sufficiency, not just mechanisms for alleviating material hardship.”
Wisconsin Works for Everyone, which will be included in Governor Walker’s budget proposal this coming February, will seek to extend work requirements to able-bodied adults with school-age children who are receiving FoodShare, as well as to able-bodied adults receiving housing assistance. These initial changes would be slated to take place on a pilot basis.
Walker’s full proposal, he said, will increase investment in job and skills training for the unemployed and underemployed, reduce barriers to work and increased earnings, and expand programs that incentivize employment. Where flexibility is needed, it will also aggressively seek federal waivers under a new incoming administration to encourage work and enhance self-sufficiency, including pilot work requirements for working-age, able-bodied adults receiving housing vouchers.
As part of the proposal, job training programs will be significantly expanded for the unemployed or underemployed receiving FoodShare, the incarcerated and ex-offenders, and low-income noncustodial parents involved in the child support system.
Additionally, barriers to work will be addressed through reforms that reduce occupational licensing and eliminate the benefits cliff in child care subsidies, which can leave families financially worse off if they take a raise or work more hours. Barriers to work would also be eliminated for those enrolled in the Medicaid Purchase Plan (MAPP), by removing the premium cliff as people transition into earning more income.
According to a press release, reforms would also expand programs that incentivize and reward employment by establishing an earned-income tax credit group for people who often struggle to connect with work, including young adults aging out of foster care, and those who exit the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) child disability program at age 18.
“This set of initiatives is focused on helping those disconnected from employment realize their potential in the workforce,” Governor Walker added. “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.”