As people of faith, we believe that work is sacred and brings dignity to the worker. However, current proposals before our state legislature and coming from our federal government threaten that dignity and will harm low-income Wisconsinites’ ability to make ends meet. Our faith traditions teach us to honor the worker, to pay her appropriately and in a timely way, and to reach out a helping hand to those in need.
Many of these proposals – such as drug testing and work requirements, have no purpose other than to shame and stigmatize the poor. The real shame, though, is to a society whose policies and structures serve to keep people in poverty.
These proposals, Special Session AB/SB 1-5, and Special Session AB/SB 8-10, have passed in the Assemby and next week will be before the Senate. Among the provisions of these bills:
- Work requirements for ‘able-bodied adults’ to qualify for FoodShare (food stamps)
- Exempted are adults caring for children under the age of 6. However, there is no provision for job placements to take place only during the school day. This leaves parents with the choice of losing food benefits or paying for after-school care.
- Further, the FoodShare Education and Training program has been shown to be inadequate to providing stable, well-paying employment, but it has been shown to result in needy Wisconsinites losing access to nutrition.
- The reality is, when an adult loses their FoodShare benefits, the whole family suffers, as FoodShare is allocated per household, not per family member. This legislation will result in increased hunger for low-income Wisconsinites.
- Photo ID for FoodShare cards – Photo ID’s are expensive, and ultimately unworkable, as many states have found.
- Drug testing and employability for low-income housing –
- low-income able-bodied Wisconsin residents who otherwise qualify for public housing would be required to be screened by local housing authorities to determine if they are unemployed or underemployed, requires the housing authority to create an employment plan, and the resident to follow the plan. However, local housing authorities have no expertise in creating or administering employment plans. Further, to deny public housing to someone based on their employment status only serves to exacerbate unemployment, as stable housing is an important factor in obtaining stable employment.
- Drug-testing is simply an effort to stigmatize the poor and discourage them from applying for benefits. There is no evidence to suggest low-income Wisconsinites are any more likely than the general population to engage in drug use. Further, no additional funding or support services are offered, either to assist with employment or to address treatment for drug use.
Please call your Senator and ask them to oppose these bills. Find your legislators here