Shankland still fighting for Heat and Eat program bill
Written By: Nathan Vine
STEVENS POINT — Katrina Shankland is continuing to push for legislation she supports — specifically a measure to protect low-income families from cuts to food stamps — despite what she said was the end of a “disappointing” legislative session last week.
Shankland, D-Stevens Point, will be traveling to Milwaukee on Thursday to join Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, to promote the food stamp legislation they recently introduced. The measure is in response to the $956.4 billion farm bill Congress passed in February after nearly four years of negotiations.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, of the Third Congressional District that includes Portage County, voted against the measure. Among other issues, Kind points to $8.6 billion in cuts in the bill to the Heat and Eat program. The Heat and Eat program allows for low-income residents to qualify for additional food stamp assistance if they receive at least $1 in energy assistance. Congress sought to curb that program by increasing the minimum requirement to $20.
Shankland said the change will cut benefits to FoodShare, the state’s food stamp program, for 255,000 Wisconsin households . Shankland and Goyke’s legislation would increase the annual amount of federal dollars the state allocates for Heat and Eat from $1 to $21, effectively allowing those households to maintain their benefits.
Half of the 16 states that operate the Heat and Eat program already have moved to expand heating aid to preserve food stamps for low-income residents. House Speaker John Boehner earlier this month threatened legislation to stop this action, which is being viewed as a loophole in the farm bill.
Shankland defended her legislation, which she said would use no state money.
“Congress passed a bill betting against the states and the value they place on protecting those people who are most vulnerable, and they are losing,” Shankland said.
Shankland said while no action was taken on her measure when the Assembly ended its legislative session Friday, Gov. Scott Walker could still implement the measure with an executive order.
Shankland said she had plenty of other disappointments during the legislative session besides the lack of support for the Heat and Eat program. She said the Republican-controlled Legislature did not take up issues such as a minimum wage increase or job creation, but instead pushed through legislation to limit early voting and allowing lobbyists to start making campaign donations seven weeks earlier than current state law allows.
“We had votes to allow more money into politics and less opportunity to vote. Those are two things that I haven’t heard any of my constituents ask for,” Shankland said. “As public servants, we should still be working in Madison to resolve issues like support for education or job growth, and I’m going to keep working.”