Wisconsin is disqualified from close to $50 million in monthly emergency food assistance after the state Supreme Court struck down statewide public health orders.
The Court ruled Wednesday that Gov. Tony Evers overstepped his authority by issuing several emergency orders, one of which required all residents to wear masks in public spaces.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, without a state health declaration, Wisconsin no longer qualifies for emergency food assistance. Congress made that a requirement when it passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act last year, which allows for individuals to receive the maximum $234 in food aid.
A memo from the Fiscal Legislative Bureau estimates in January more than 242,000 homes received emergency food benefits, which is close to $50 million.
Data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows more than 400,000 homes received benefits from the state's FoodShare program, and nearly 35 percent of those homes had children.
Food banks say they have been working in overdrive during the past year, and now they worry more people will go hungry.
"So if you were getting $16, you all of the sudden started getting a little over $200," said Maureen Fitzgerald, the Vice President of Government Relations at Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin. "So you're going to go back to $16 a month."
Fitzgerald points out many of those receiving $16 per month are seniors, and she says she fears they will not know this change could happen.
She believes the benefits will expire in May, so she said she hopes there's time for lawmakers to come up with a solution.
TMJ4 reached out to the governor's office but did not hear back at the time of this story.
"Almost everyone knows somebody, family member, friend, friend of a friend, who literally lost their job and is on the verge of losing their housing right now because of the pandemic," said Sherrie Tussler, the executive director of Hunger Task Force. "And not all of the economy is recovered, not everybody is back to work, and that's where FoodShare comes in."
Like many people in Wisconsin, Kevin Turpel applied for the FoodShare program after he was furloughed as a result of the pandemic.
"There was a portion of time I was sharing with family that I was paying for gas with nickels and dimes," Turpel said. "And when a support system, a friend, mentioned this program, it relieved a lot of pressure."