The federal government and the state of Wisconsin have reached a deal that preserves more than $70 million a month in food assistance benefits for Wisconsin families.
Gov. Tony Evers' office said in a statement Tuesday that his administration and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed to continue the lifeline to families struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This comes after the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 4-3 to strike down an emergency order that included the mask mandate, a decision that made Wisconsin not eligible for federal food assistance benefits.
Last year, U.S. Congress began sending states $50 million in food assistance as long as the states declared health emergencies to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Wisconsin was one of the states that qualified - until its emergency order was struck down at the end of March. Lawmakers have been seeking to find a way to restore the much-needed aid.
Evers' administration said in Tuesday's statement that the more than $70 million in food assistance benefits will help 400,000 Wisconsin households every month.
“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 in the statement. “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.”
Evers' office states that following the high court's decision, the administration began working with the USDA and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to make sure the aid continues in the absence of the previous emergency order.
On Tuesday, the USDA and FNS accepted an April 8, 2021 emergency order as an emergency order that qualifies Wisconsin for the aid.
Wisconsin Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake issued the order last week to help coordinate the COVID-19 response with local health departments. That also in effect allowed the state to be eligible for the food benefits.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services came to an agreement with the USDA and FNS on allowing states to gain approval for two months, rather than a single month, of emergency SNAP allotments.
Details on the FoodShare program, according to Gov. Evers' office
- FoodShare is Wisconsin's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (known as SNAP in other states), providing nutrition support for working families, low-income seniors and people with disabilities living on fixed incomes, and other people and households with low incomes.
- In Wisconsin, 400,000+ households— more than 770,000 people—receive nutrition support through FoodShare.
- 34.5% of participating households have kids in them, almost 43% of households include seniors or people with disabilities.
- FoodShare households spend their benefits at more than 5,000 retailers across the state.
- The federal government estimates that every dollar of FoodShare benefits spent generates up to $1.5 in additional economic activity and increases jobs.
- The number of people and families receiving FoodShare benefits in Wisconsin has been increasing rapidly over the past year in response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with an increase of 140,000 people enrolled in the program over the past year.
- In December 2019, FoodShare households spent an average of $2 million each day on food in Wisconsin over approximately 80,000 transactions. A year later, that figure increased 125%, with households spending $4.5 million at their local retailers across more than 153,000 transactions.
Correction: A previous version of this story cited incorrect numbers given by Gov. Evers' office regarding FoodShare household spending. These numbers have been updated.