Wisconsin Lawmakers Move To Stop Food Stamp Abuse


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Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin plan to vote Tuesday on a series of bills that would add increased scrutiny and penalties to counter food stamp abuse. 

Lawmakers designed the bills to prevent food stamp abuse in two ways. The first three measures address acts of abuse and fraud. The fourth bill increases penalties for those caught abusing their benefits. Under the new penalties, a recipient could be banned from the program for seven years for lying during the application process.

“The overall goal is to ensure that tax dollars are not wasted and that the people who need the temporary assistance are getting it,” Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a statement provided to The Associated Press.

The measures will first go up for vote in the state assembly. One bill requires that a photo be added to benefit cards. Another would require the state to seize all benefits from an account that hasn’t been accessed in six months. A recipient would have to make another request to gain access to their benefits again.

An additional bill would require recipients to submit an adequate explanation if they lose six benefit cards, according to Wisconsin Ag Connection. The state Department of Health Services would send warning letters after the fourth lost card and open an investigation if five cards are lost. Some, however, argue the bills are unfair.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous we’re talking about who should or should not get food,” Sherrie Tussler, executive director of the Hunger Task Force, said in a statement provided to The Associated Press.

The state has already been sending out warning letters as part of a 2013 limited pilot program. It has determined the policy has been successful in reducing replacement requests.

More commonly known as food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s largest food-assistance program. It is run by both state and federal agencies. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the main agency in charge of the program.

According to the USDA’s own findings, the food stamp program has increased from 17 million participants in 2000 to nearly 47 million in 2014. Though the improved economy has helped decrease the number of participants in recent years. Since participation hit its peak in December 2012, the number of people receiving benefits has declined by more than 1.5 million, the Congressional Budget Office found.

Nevertheless, the rate in which the program has grown as prompted concern among many lawmakers. Some on the state and federal level have tried reforming the program by getting work requirements back or adding additional eligibility requirements. In July, the administration for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sued the USDA after the agency informed the state it could not drug-test those on food stamps.

Walker was running for president as a the Republican but dropped out Sept. 21 after a sharp fall in the polls.

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