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Wisconsin Opts Out Of Federal Program That Boosts Food Assistance Funding

'Heat-And-Eat' Program Gave Funding To States That Provided Heating Assistance To Low-Income Households

Rep. Katrina Shankland introduced a bill last spring that would have enabled the state to stay in the program. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin State Legislature.

Wisconsin is one of three states that has ended a program that provided increased food assistance benefits to low-income households.

When Congress approved the U.S. Farm Bill in February, it included changes to a program called “heat-and-eat.” Under the program, the federal government sends additional food assistance funding for every low-income household that the state helps pay heating bills. Previously, the law only required a state to give $1 in heating assistance in order to qualify. Now, states must pay at least $20 in energy benefits to get the additional food assistance funds.

State Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, introduced a bill last spring that would have enabled Wisconsin to meet the new heating assistance minimum, but it never was voted upon.

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“255,000 Wisconsin households losing $276 million in FoodShare benefits will be devastating for these people,” she said. “We’re talking about a family of three losing out on $1,200 worth of food assistance.”

The “heat-and-eat” cuts are already in effect in Wisconsin, and the governor’s office says the state will not change its current heating assistance funding levels.