MADISON, Wis.— Gov. Tony Evers, the United State Department of Agriculture and Food and Nutrition Service came to an agreement that secures more than $70 million in food assistance. According to a press release issued by Gov. Evers, this will benefit more than 400,000 households in the Badger State. That's more than 770,000 people.
“If we’re listening, 407,000 Wisconsin households can be heard making a collective sigh of relief today. These are our neighbors who need help with food, and today, Wisconsin found an effective, nonpartisan solution to a pending statewide food crisis. Emergency food benefits will continue,” said Sherrie Tussler, executive director of Hunger Task Force.
FoodShare, Wisconsin's supplemental nutrition assistance program, provides support for working families, low-income seniors and people with disabilities living on fixed incomes, and others with low incomes.
Over the past year that COVID-19 has plagued Wisconsin, more than 140,000 additional people have enrolled in the program. Out of all participating Wisconsin households, 34.5% include children and nearly 43% include seniors or people with disabilities.
“More than $70 million a month means we can get support to a lot of folks across our state who are still struggling in the midst of a pandemic and need help putting food on the table,” said Gov. Evers. “I’m proud we were able to work with our federal partners to come to an agreement that will ensure we can keep providing these critical resources to Wisconsinites across our state.”
Through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, the USDA can give "additional emergency food assistance allotments" to states under an emergency order or disaster declaration related to the pandemic. These allotments are entirely federally funded.
In Wisconsin, the benefits totaled out to be more than $70 million per month.
When the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Gov. Evers' latest public health emergency in Fabick v. Evers, the state became ineligible for the benefits it was already receiving. The court's ruling prevents Gov. Evers from issuing a new pandemic-related public health emergency, according to Gov. Evers' press release.
Karen Timberlake, secretary-designee of Wisconsin Department of Health Services, issued an "emergency declaration based on COVID-19." Gov. Evers is also listed on the declaration. USDA and FNS agreed to accept this declaration as a qualifier to preserve Wisconsin food benefits.
“We have been working tirelessly with the federal government to make sure Wisconsin families don’t lose out on needed benefits due to the global pandemic,” said Department of Health Services secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “This action will not only benefit thousands of Wisconsin families with needed money for food but also all Wisconsin communities from grocery stores to farmers to truckers, this money will benefit Wisconsin businesses and communities.”
"The new Emergency Declaration is a unique solution to ensure emergency benefits for hungry children, families and seniors throughout Wisconsin. Many individuals—who, pre-pandemic, received just $16 per month—will continue to be eligible for the maximum FoodShare benefit of $234 per month with today’s new emergency declaration," Hunger Task Force said in a statement.
“Also smiling are the farmers, food producers, grocers and transportation industry who will benefit from an infusion of $70 million in federal funding when people shop for food at the grocery store, rather than lining up at the breadline,” said Tussler. “Interim secretary Timberlake and officials within the USDA should be congratulated for their effective problem-solving. Today they delivered dignity."
While organizations like Feeding Wisconsin, Hunger Task Force and other food programs help reduce hunger in the state, Feeding Wisconsin stressed that they cannot do it alone, and explained why they needed the government to step up.
"We are appreciative of our administration's work to ensure that Wisconsin families have access to these increased emergency FoodShare benefits throughout pandemic recovery. For every meal provided by our food banks, SNAP provides about nine," Stephanie Jung Dorfman, Feeding Wisconsin's executive director, said. "Our network functions best to serve our communities alongside robust nutrition programs— such as SNAP. And we are grateful that our community, individuals experiencing hunger and our local economies, will continue to be supported by these increased federal dollars."