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Veto Calls Grow Over Public-Aid Restrictions Proposed in WI

Close-up of a person's hand filing out a form
Oleksandra - stock.adobe.com
Filling out a form for aid

A coalition of Wisconsin groups is asking Gov. Tony Evers to reject bills it contends would make it harder for people struggling to get by to bounce back with the help of certain public assistance programs.

More than two dozen organizations from around the state want the governor to veto a bill requiring BadgerCare recipients to renew their health coverage twice as often. They also want to see him veto a measure limiting unemployment benefits.

William Parke-Sutherland, senior health policy analyst for the group Kids Forward, argued the plans unfairly target people who need some type of public assistance. He added seven of 10 Medicaid recipients are already employed.

"And so, if state policymakers want to support workers, they need to address the real factors that make it difficult and sometimes impossible for workers to take more hours, and to get and keep better jobs," Parke-Sutherland urged.

For example, he noted expanding child care access would be a big help. Business groups supporting some of the bills said they would be more effective in addressing worker shortages. And GOP legislators point to a nonbinding referendum from the April election showing Wisconsin voters agree with the idea of work requirements for certain public benefits.

But skeptics like Parke-Sutherland pointed out there are already checks and balances built into many public assistance programs. He feels it is an attempt to avoid empowering low-income workers who are not getting the necessary benefits from their employers.

"They don't want to pay their workers fair wages, and offer lifesaving benefits like health insurance," Parke-Sutherland contended.

He added most people enrolled in Wisconsin's public assistance programs are white, but restrictions disproportionately affect people of color. In the last legislative session, similar bills were advanced by the Republican-led Legislature and were subsequently vetoed by Evers.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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