Wisconsin to lose more food aid than originally known

NOW: Wisconsin to lose more food aid than originally known

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Bickering between Wisconsin Democrats and Republicans over face masks is going to cost Wisconsin millions more in food aid than first thought.

The Legislature first learned a few months ago that Wisconsin stood to lose $50 million in food aid every month without a coronavirus health order.

That number has since grown.

The day after Governor Evers' mask order was struck down, the U.S. Department of Agriculture actually increased the amount people getting food assistance qualify for.

Without a statewide order in place, people receiving help with their groceries will not get any additional help.

"They could literally say we've got a public health emergency in the State of Wisconsin solely for help with food," said Feeding American Eastern Wisconsin Vice President of Government Relations Maureen Fitzgerald.

Timing is everything, and the state Supreme Court's decision to overturn the statewide mask order couldn't have come at a worse time.

"You needed to have a public health emergency at the state level and a public health emergency at the federal level," said Fitzgerald.

The agriculture department approved more money for people getting help with their groceries the day after that decision. With no agreement from state lawmakers on a new health order, the state will lose out on $70 million in food assistance starting in May.

"The minute they do that our Department of Health Services needs to go to the USDA, please allow these folks in Wisconsin to get the help they deserve," said Fitzgerald.

"I'm going to continue to fight for resources but I want it to be used wisely and I think this would be a very unwise decision not to find out a way to get that money," said U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin 2).

Pocan said it's frustrating to approve money for the state from Congress only to see it go to waste. He puts the blame solely on the state's Republicans.

"To take an action to cost us $70 million a month in food benefits is really unconscionable," said Pocan.

Republican state lawmakers passed a measure to get the benefits back when they tried overturning the mask order months ago, but Democratic Governor Tony Evers vetoed it. Wisconsin is now left at an impasse over lunch money.

The extra money would give $90 a month to 700,000 people across the state.

Without it, people can still go to local food pantries, but they're stretched as well.

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