Food stamps

The Flamingo Run convenience store at UW-Madison's Gordon Dining and Events Center accepts food stamp benefits for some food items.

Gov. Tony Evers and 16 other governors Wednesday expressed opposition to a rule proposed by the Trump administration that could throw 25,000 Wisconsin households off food stamps and as many as 12,000 children.

The governors in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue called on him to rescind the rule to prevent hundreds of thousands of people across the nation from losing access to food stamps.

“We shouldn’t be making it harder for struggling Americans to make ends meet and put food on the table — which is what this proposed regulation would do,” the 17 governors wrote.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture last month proposed a rule that, in the administration’s view, would close a “loophole” that allows people who receive only minimal benefits through programs such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to be automatically eligible for food stamps without going through further vetting of their income or assets.

Under current law, states can automatically make people eligible for food stamps if they meet income and other requirements of the TANF program, commonly referred to as welfare.

Under the proposal, to qualify for automatic eligibility, people would have to get at least $50 a month in benefits from TANF for a minimum of six months.

In Wisconsin, families making more than the food stamp program allows can still receive benefits with minimal participation in certain TANF-funded programs, such as if they receive a referral to Wisconsin Job Center services or the Department of Workforce Development’s job-search program.

That allows Wisconsin families with gross income of up to 200% of the poverty level to be eligible for food stamps even though normal program requirements cap eligibility at 130%. The poverty level is determined by income and family size: $12,490 for one, $16,910 for two, $21,330 for three and $25,750 for four, for example.

Such Wisconsin families making between 131% and 200% of the poverty level are the most at risk of losing benefits. About 3.1 million people stand to lose benefits nationwide if the Trump administration’s rule is approved. About 36 million people participated in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program in April 2019, down from more than 38 million a year earlier.

In Wisconsin, 309,770 households and 602,883 individuals participate in the FoodShare program. Many of those participants are children.