Wisconsin reaches deal with USDA to keep providing food assistance during pandemic

MADISON, Wis. (WKBT) — The state of Wisconsin will receive more than $70 million in food assistance benefits for 400,000 households under a deal announced Tuesday between Gov. Tony Evers and the United States Department of Agriculture.

“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 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.”

The deal came about after a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision struck down Evers’ public health emergency declaration related to COVID-19, saying it violated state law. Without the emergency declaration, the state was no longer guaranteed the $70 million in food assistance funds under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

After the court decision, the Evers administration worked with the USDA and Food and Nutritional Service to find a way to keep food on the tables of Wisconsinites. A new declaration dated April 8 and issued by Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake was deemed acceptable to preserve the benefits.

The declaration calls on DHS to take all necessary actions to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including working with federal authorities and local health officers, as well as support testing and vaccination efforts.

DHS FoodShare Emergency Declaration

“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 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.”

In Wisconsin, more than 400,000 households receive FoodShare benefits. Of those households, 34.5% include children and 43% include seniors or people with disabilities.

The number of people and families receiving FoodShare benefits in Wisconsin has been increasingly 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.