Wisconsin Continues Welfare Reform

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Wisconsin Continues Welfare Reform



In the 1990s, then-Governor Tommy Thompson made significant changes to Wisconsin’s welfare system – measures that helped inspire federal welfare reform enacted under President Clinton. The current Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, is continuing in Thompson’s footsteps. Legislators recently passed a series of bills put forward by the governor that would once again revamp the state’s welfare programs.


Among the changes facing recipients of government benefits:

  • Able-bodied individuals receiving food stamps will face a work requirement of 30 hours a month, up from 20 hours a month. This requirement would also be expanded to able-bodied individuals who have school-age children.
  • Those looking for public housing will be drug tested and receive treatment if found to be using drugs.
  • Anyone owning a home above the state’s median home value – around $321,000 – will not be eligible for food stamp or Medicaid benefits.
  • Anyone owning a car worth more than $20,000 will not be eligible for food stamps.
  • Non-custodial parents who are able-bodied Medicaid recipients will be forced to pay child support and face paternity testing.


Some of these reforms will require approval from the federal government, although many can be implemented without federal permission.

Gov. Walker and legislative leaders say these changes are a way to reduce long-term dependency on government programs and move people to work. Opponents of these bills contend that they will force needy people to lose benefits.


This is the most sweeping welfare reform package passed in the state since Gov. Thompson’s initial reforms over two decades ago. It may serve as a model for other states or inspire state policymakers to look for new ways to change the delivery of government benefits.


Do you support cutting off welfare benefits for people who have expensive homes or don’t look for work? Or do you think that work requirements and other mandates are just ways to end benefits for those who need them?


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