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Proposal to remove unused FoodShare benefits added to state budget

Wisconsin State Capitol (WLUK file photo)

(WLUK) -- The Food Share program is designed to help people in need. But some lawmakers say the program is being used like a big savings account.

FOX 11 Investigates first highlighted this issue in three years ago and found balances of more than $10,000. That would end under a plan that is now part of the state budget.

“Really, the figures that you showed me were staggering in terms of how people were able to really draw up these huge balances which were a major temptation for abuse,” said State Rep. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere).

Jacque proposed a bill to address the issue last session. While it easily passed the Assembly, it stalled in the Senate. Now, his proposal has been added to the state budget.

“It's something that in my spring constituent survey has overwhelming public support,” Jacque said.

Under the plan, the state would remove any FoodShare benefits for accounts that aren't used for six months. Recipients could get the benefits back if a person asks. But if benefits go unused for an entire year, they would be permanently expunged.

“It's a needs-based program. It's supposed to be the supplemental nutrition assistance program. So, if they're not being used on a monthly basis, then certainly there's a question as to whether or not an individual has the means that the program isn't necessary,” Jacque said.

The state estimates it would cost $1.3 million to implement the changes.

“It just doesn't make sense to overreach like this," said Sherrie Tussler from the Hunger Task Force.

Tussler says the measure doesn't belong in the state budget and is unnecessary.

“A proposal like this is just going to harm seniors and people with disabilities and people who have a difficult time getting to the grocery store with frequency," Tussler added.

The measure is not a done deal just yet. It still must survive the state budget process. And even then, the federal government would still have to allow Wisconsin to remove any benefits.

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