Gov. Scott Walker announced a welfare reform initiative Monday that aims to increase investment in skills training for the unemployed while also requiring “able-bodied” people receiving government assistance to work at least 80 hours per month.
The plan, titled “Wisconsin Works for Everyone,” is part of Walker’s upcoming budget proposal, and builds on welfare reform initiatives originally signed into law by former Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1996.
“Like Governor Thompson’s original W-2 initiative, [the proposal] is based on the fundamental principle that work is dignifying and connects individuals to society and to its values,” Walker said in a release.
Walker’s office said the plan would reduce barriers that make it hard for people who are unemployed and underemployed to find work. The initiative would specifically tailor job training programs to people receiving FoodShare benefits, as well as to ex-offenders and the incarcerated.
Additionally, Walker’s plan would “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,” according to the release. The plan requires those people to work at least 80 hours per month to qualify for government assistance.
Democrats in the state legislature were quick to criticize Walker’s proposal to tighten requirements for those receiving government assistance.
“Once again, Gov. Walker is creating one set of rules for working families and another set of rules for the wealthy and well-connected,” Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said in a press release. “Why should working families have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get help with rising childcare costs?”
State Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, the ranking Democratic member on the Assembly Committee on Public Benefit Reform, accused Walker of “scoring political points at the expense of our most vulnerable neighbors.”
“Poverty has reached a crisis level in too many of our communities, including parts of Madison,” Subeck said in a release. “[Walker’s proposal would] limit access to food and shelter for low income families with children.”
Thompson joined Walker in Madison to announce the welfare reform package Monday. Walker plans to travel around the state to tout the proposal, making stops in Eau Claire, Milwaukee and Green Bay.
Walker will focus on framing the proposal as a comprehensive plan to “facilitate our citizens’ success in Wisconsin’s workforce.”
“This set of initiatives is focused on helping those disconnected from employment realize their potential in the workforce,” Walker said. “We have every intention of leading the nation when it comes to helping people create better lives for themselves and their families through work.”