May 30, 2013

Eric Alvin: Scott Walker's food plan is heartless and he knows it

5-30-2013 Wisconsin:

Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a change to our FoodShare program (food stamps) that would require so-called “able-bodied” poor adults to spend 20 hours a week in job training or seeking work, or be denied FoodShare benefits. The governor proposes to spend $16.8 million in taxpayer money to implement this policy change.

Many people might see this as a way to help people obtain jobs or motivate those they see as “undeserving” of our help. This perception is false and uninformed. Walker’s program, which his pals on the Joint Finance Committee have approved, will do only two things: take food away from 31,300 people per year, and remove $72 million in federal dollars from Wisconsin grocery stores.

FoodShare helps many working parents with children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Many who receive Food Share assistance are already employed. The people targeted by this change, however, are 62,700 adults ages 18-50 who have no children and no official disability. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that half of the recipients who are targeted by the work requirement will drop out of the program. These will NOT be people who suddenly decided to get a job. These are people who will not be able to comply with the 20-hour-a-week requirements and will be weeded out of the program.

We need to understand the characteristics of the people who will likely lose benefits. These are folks who are not likely to be hired by anyone, anywhere, particularly with the anemic job growth under Walker. These are folks without family support or whose families are chronically poor. Many have serious medical issues and are not really “able-bodied,” but are waiting for the year or more that it can take to obtain disability benefits. Most likely have some combination of mental illness, addiction and/or cognitive limitations that have not been labeled a disability, but which preclude them from functioning well and holding down a job. They likely have not worked regularly in years, and they likely struggle just to get through the day.

They may be victims of crime, women dealing with the trauma of a sexual assault, or veterans with PTSD. They are folks who have been ripped off by rent-to-own stores and telemarketers because their capacity to learn from their mistakes is compromised. Most have no transportation. Many do not have a phone. A large number are homeless for a significant part of the year. If they do have a home, they struggle to pay rent and utility bills.

The bureaucratic hoops that they will be asked to jump through will weed them out rather than allow them to obtain a job. Many have repeatedly failed in job training programs, and many will understand that NO ONE WILL HIRE THEM — so jumping through these hoops will be demeaning and punitive. Since their life circumstances will prevent them from complying with these requirements, they will have a choice between food pantries (which they already use because food stamps are not adequate), stealing and starving. These human beings will not magically become employable if we cut off their food.

This proposal speaks volumes about our inhumanity as a state and about the petty and selfish mindset of Walker and his cronies. Our governor is willing to spend millions in taxpayer money to claim to be “tough on welfare” but will not accept the federal Medicaid dollars that would do far more to help thousands of Wisconsin residents return to work or avoid bankruptcy. Walker is very willing to let these people steal, beg, or starve to further his political ends. He spoke in Iowa last week and claimed that this proposal meant that he “cared enough to help train people to get jobs.” This is not true. Walker KNOWS that half of the people targeted in this proposal are neither employable nor capable of meeting the new requirements. He is counting on it; he wants to be able to claim that the number of FoodShare recipients went down on his watch.

The $191 per month that these folks receive to buy food would not be enough to buy a single meal at many Walker fundraising dinners. The proposal reflects a cynical and deeply non-Christian view of the role of power, and the idea of this man in our highest office should be terrifying to us all. ..Source.. by Eric Alvin of Madison who is a social worker for Dane County Human Services.

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