How Legislature Could Help Poor People
Don’t spend $90 million on new barriers; create a path out of poverty.
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin agrees with Governor Walker that employment in jobs that pay a living wage is the most effective means for families to move out of poverty and become vital, contributing members of society. However the majority of people in Wisconsin who continue to receive FoodShare and other government benefits are people who already face substantial barriers to improved employment: many have disabilities that limit their options; they may be single mothers with children and inadequate access to good child care; they have chronic or acute health concerns that require frequent—perhaps daily—treatment regimens; they lack access to good transportation to travel to work or to daycare or to medical appointments; they lack modern skills to meet employers’ technical requirements; they live in constant fear of domestic violence and sabotage of their employment prospects.
Increasing the bureaucratic compliance requirements is not the most humane, and certainly not the most efficient, way to help people train for and compete successfully for good jobs.
While some of these bills propose changes to our existing systems that may help a small percentage of low-income individuals, they largely do not provide the types of assistance that would result in meaningful change. Unfortunately, these proposals are mostly about increasing the barriers faced by struggling families, which we know will simply result in fewer resources for the families involved. And this misguided effort will cost Wisconsin taxpayers $90 million. Imagine how that money could be used to benefit Wisconsin workers!
Unemployment in Wisconsin is approaching historically low levels. Employers and the government will have to work together to expand the labor force to meet the increasing demand for skilled employees. This cannot be done by making it harder for low-wage workers to access supplements to their low wages. It can only be done by expanding the opportunities for families to participate in the modern labor market. We encourage the legislature to take a new look at how to make it possible for more people to meaningfully participate in building Wisconsin’s economy.
As they stand, these proposals will not help the state move forward, and we urge lawmakers to reject them.
Ingrid Rothe currently serves on the Legislative Committee for the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for informed and active participation in government.