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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, June 19, 2024
In a special session called by Gov. Scott Walker, the state Assembly passed a series of reforms to the state’s welfare system, adding work requirements, drug testing, and asset value limitations to various social programs.

In a special session called by Gov. Scott Walker, the state Assembly passed a series of reforms to the state’s welfare system, adding work requirements, drug testing, and asset value limitations to various social programs.

Walker’s welfare reforms pass state Assembly

During a special session called by Gov. Scott Walker, the Assembly passed a package of reforms to the state’s welfare system, adding a series of new requirements and restrictions for those receiving public assistance.

Along party lines, the Republican-controlled chamber passed the governor’s proposals to add work requirements, drug testing and a series of other restrictions on welfare recipients, as well as impose pay-for-performance standards for private groups that run welfare services.

“I thank Governor Walker for his leadership in calling the Special Session of the Legislature to address welfare reform,” said state Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, in a statement. “I was proud to support these reforms, which will help to get people off of government assistance and into the workforce.”

Proponents of the package emphasized the importance of the new work requirements, which, paired with Wisconsin’s low unemployment rate, they feel could help bolster the state’s workforce.

“I am encouraged to see the work requirement match the allowable federal guideline for the FoodShare employment and training program,” said state Rep. Terry Katsma, R-Oostburg, in a statement. “At a time when Wisconsin has record low unemployment rates, we need to make sure that everyone who can work, is working.”

But some critics fear the new restrictions could take help away from those most in need.

“Clear and consistent exemptions for people with disabilities and chronic conditions that make work difficult and exemptions for their caregivers are crucial to support those living in poverty,” said Daniel Idzikowski, the executive director for Disability Rights Wisconsin, arguing that the reforms could drive some families into even deeper poverty.

Several disability rights organizations pushed for an amendment that would have created a stakeholder advisory council, which would allow program participants to help shape the implementation of such reforms. The amendment was not included in the bill’s final version.

Democrats have also been critical of their colleagues’ focus on welfare recipients in order to boost labor force participation.

“If Walker is serious about helping people get to work, he should be asking why Wisconsin has trailed the nation in private-sector job creation for the past six years,” said state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, in a press release. “He should explain why he failed to keep his 2010 campaign trail promise to create 250,000 private-sector jobs.”

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