Wisconsin’s Hungry to get Hungrier, Starting Tomorrow!

Image: Activists Protest House Farm Bill Plan To Cut Food Assistance Program

No this is not a Halloween joke. It’s harsh reality for the families and individuals in Wisconsin, and other U.S. states, who presently rely on federal food stamps for their daily living. Beginning November 1, nearly 900,000 Wisconsinites will see cuts to their monthly food stamp benefits. Food stamps help people with limited money buy the food they need for good health. Income eligibility for food stamps is based on household size and monthly gross and net income, relative to the federal poverty level. The poverty level ranges from $958 to $1,963, per month, for an individual to a family of four living in Wisconsin.

Persons and families who count on food stamp (called food shares in Wisconsin)  for their monthly food budget are getting an unwanted  trick tomorrow.  What started as a temporary increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2009  as an element of the federal stimulus act ends tomorrow.

After today, 860,000 people in Wisconsin will get considerably less money to buy food.  A family of three loses $29 in monthly shares. In total, the Wisconsin Budget Project, an initiative of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, calculates that Wisconsin families now getting food shares will receive $89 million less in 2014 ,

SNAP is supposedly our country’s anti-hunger program, designed to help poor people – most of them children, disabled or elderly – buy nourishable food. Enrollment has doubled since 2004 and the program’s cost has nearly tripled. Aside from a less than adequate state and federal economy the last few years, another big reason for the increase in number of people who depend on the SNAP program is no doubt due to the federal government’s failure to raise the minimum hourly wage, which remains at $7.25 per hour since July 24, 2009.  A person who works for $7.25 an hour (2080 hours/yr.) and provides for a family of two falls below the poverty level.  According to a recent study, more than half of all employees working in the fast food industry in the country rely on food stamps. Beginning tomorrow, one of every seven Americans,or 47.6 million people (15% of U.S. population) will get less food starting when the $5 billion cut in food stamps takes effect.

Congress has the power to halt the cutback but is not likely to do so at a time when Republicans, lead by Rep Paul Ryan, are calling for even more drastic cuts to food stamps. Other changes to Food Share in Wisconsin are planned to take place  July 2014 when the state implements its work or training requirement. Exemptions like age, pregnancy and ability would prevent some from having to work to receive benefits. Of course many of those not exempted from working are undoubtedly already working but in low paying jobs. Many states (18) and Washington D.C. have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage (Oregon and Washington have their minimum wage set at $8.95 and $9.19, respectively); however, Wisconsin uses the federal hourly work minimum of $7.25.

Meanwhile, just to show where Wisconsin politicians’ priorities lie these days, when a highway bridge developed a sag requiring closure on September 25th this year ,state transportation officials wasted no time and called for an “aggressive” target date to have the bridge opened back up to traffic – January 17, 2014 – at a total project cost of $15 million. (The Wisconsin State Journal reported today that the contract to make the repairs has already been issued to a Waukesha construction company.) And of course the Wisconsin State Legislature wasted no time passing Governor Scott Walker’s $100 million property tax subsidy this month (6 days and virtually no time for public comment) , which benefits the state’s wealthiest and business property owners the most.

The federal food stamp program as a whole is facing potentially devastating cuts in the coming years if House of Representative Republicans get their way. The House approved legislation last month that would cut $39 billion in funds over the next decade for food stamp programs. The The Senate’s farm bill also would cut food stamps, but by $4.5 billion over a decade. Negotiators in the Senate and House of Representatives are meeting beginning this week to resolve their differences in a long-delayed farm bill.

 

About Mike Neuman

Identical twin; Long-time advocate of protection of our environment; Married; Father to three sons; Grandfather to one granddaughter; Born and raised in Wisconsin; Graduate of University of Wisconsin; post graduate degrees in agricultural economics and Water Resources Management fro UWMadison; Former School Crossing Guard for City of Madison; Bike to Work for 31 years with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Retired from DNR in 2007; Biked to school crossing guard site 2 X daily for 7 years retiring in 2019; in addition to being an advocate of safeguarding our environment, I am also an advocate for humane treatment of animal, children, and people in need of financial resource for humane living. I am presently a Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Madison, Wisconsin. I oppose all long (>500 miles) distance travel (via fossil fuel burning) for nonessential purposes and all ownership of more than one home. I am opposed to militarism in any form particularly for the purpose of monetary gain. I am a Strong believer in people everywhere having the right to speak their minds openly, without any fear of reprisal, regarding any concerns; especially against those in authority who are not acting for the public good?in a timely fashion and in all countries of the world not just the U S.. My identical twin, Pat, died in June 2009. He was fired from his job with the National Weather Service despite having a long and successful career as a flood forecaster with the Kansas City National Weather Service. He took a new position in the Midwest Regional Office in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, Pat’s work for the NWS went sour after he began to see the evidence for concern about rising global temperatures shortly after relocating to Minneapolis, and how they appeared to effect of flooding on the Red River that flows out of Canada before entering the U.S. in North Dakota. . Pat and I conversed on a regular basis with other scientists on the Yahoo Group named “Climate Concern “ and by personal email. The NWS denied his recommendation to give his public presentation o n his research at the “Minneapolis Mall of America” in February 2000, which deeply affected h,im. I will h He strongly believed the information ought be shared with the public to which I concurred. That was the beginning of the vendetta against my brother, Patrick J. Neuman, for speaking strongly of the obligations the federal government was responsible for accurately informing the citizenry. A way great similar response to my raising the issue of too many greenhouse gases being emitted by drivers of vehicles on Wisconsin highway system, my immediate supervisors directed: “that neither global warming, climate change nor the long term impacts upon the natural resources of Wisconsin from expansion of the state highway system were to be any part of my job requirements, and that I must not communicate, nor in a memorandum to all the bureau, shall any person who works in the same bureau I do communicate with me, neither verbally on the phone, by email.

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