Evers administration reaches deal to restore millions in federal funding for food assistance program

NOW: Evers administration reaches deal to restore millions in federal funding for food assistance program

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The state has reached a deal to secure millions of dollars in federal funds for the food assistance program that helps feeds low-income families. 

Governor Tony Evers announced his administration reached a deal with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to preserve $70 million a month for the FoodShare program. That means more than 400,000 households will continue to see additional food benefits. 

"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 Gov. 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.”

Wisconsin was receiving the federal funding for the FoodShare program, but states could only receive the money if they enact a public health emergency. After the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the Governor's emergency health order, the funds were at risk. 

Before the deal was reached, Gov. Evers indicated a solution was near. 

"We should have some very good news in the near future," said Evers during a briefing with reporters. "We’ve been working with (the USDA) to find a workaround, so we will be making that announcement in the near future."

Democrats celebrated the deal with the Biden administration to help thousands continue to see an increase in their benefits during the pandemic. 

"It's great news for families that rely on food assistance and it means fewer families will go hungry," said Rep. Daniel Riemer (D-Milwaukee).

A top Republican offered a different solution to secure the funds earlier in the day. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) offered to override a bill Gov. Evers vetoed and was previously opposed by Democrats that included a measure to restore the funding. 

“I think (Evers) made a mistake in vetoing the legislation,” said Vos. “I hope my Democratic colleagues will join us in overriding the veto…but frankly we’ve had no offers from Democrats to work with us on finding a solution.”

An override is unlikely to pass the Legislature because it would need Democratic support. Democrats opposed the bill previously because  it included several provisions such as giving the Legislature oversight on how to spend federal relief aid. 

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) previously said he’s open to finding solutions to preserve the funding for those who rely on food stamps, but said Republicans needed to find a fix saying they supported the lawsuit to end the emergency order. 

"Instead of just doing what is necessary to secure over $69 million in federal funding to help support the 255,000 Wisconsin families experiencing food insecurity, Republicans continue to prioritize undermining Governor Evers at every turn. Republicans shouldn’t play politics with $69 million in funding to feed people at risk for hunger," said Hintz. 

It was previously known by lawmakers the federal funds would be at risk if the state no longer had a public health emergency in place. 

The bill (AB1) Speaker Vos wants to call for an override was passed back in February but was immediately vetoed by Gov. Evers as he said then it was dangerous to the state’s ability to combat COVID-19. Some provisions in the bill included requiring Evers to get approval from the Legislature before spending federal relief aid, a ban on closing places of worship during the pandemic, liability protections for businesses and schools and not requiring employees to get vaccinated.

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