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USDA Official Expresses Concern Over Food Benefits Restrictions

Kevin Concannon Says States Are Limiting Access To Benefits At A Time When Jobs Are In Short Supply


A top federal agricultural official says he’s concerned about states like Wisconsin that have been reducing access to food assistance benefits, at a time when the number of people who are working and receiving food stamps is at its highest level in national program history.

Kevin Concannon, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s under secretary for food and nutrition, said he’s worried that states are enacting such restrictions “when there’s a shortage of jobs that will pay sufficient income for many of the very people who have been served in the past.”

At least one person has a job in more than 40 percent of all households receiving federal food stamps, according to Concannon.

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The under secretary did say that states should mix job programs with food assistance. That’s something that Wisconsin has done — the state’s food stamp program FoodShare now requires adults without children to enroll in job training to receive benefits.

Critics of that policy say people who can’t find work are dropped from the program, putting pressure on food pantries. At the Governor’s Northern Wisconsin Economic Development Summit, Gov. Scott Walker responded to those critics.

“You get kicked off after a certain amount of time if you won’t enroll in one of our employability and training programs and if you won’t look for work,” Walker said. “Doesn’t mean you have to find it right away.”

Around 15,000 people have lost access to food stamps under the change, according to the most recent data from the Department of Health Services.