On October 12, 2017, the Department of Health Services submitted a final proposed rule to implement drug screening and testing requirements for certain Able Bodied Adults Without Disabilities (ABAWDs) applying for FoodShare benefits.
The Proposed Rule
The rule would implement provisions of the 2015 state budget bill that created new statutory drug testing provisions codified at Wis. Stat. section 49.79(9)(d). The drug screening and testing requirements apply only to applicants seeking to meet the FoodShare work requirements of Wis. Stat. section 49.79(10) – also a product of the 2015 – through participation in the FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) program.
Applicants between the ages of 18 and 49 without a documented disability will be required to complete a screening questionnaire “which may include questions related to controlled substance abuse as well as related criminal background.” Applicants who refuse to complete the questionnaire will not be allowed to participate in the FSET program, and will need to meet the FoodShare work requirements through employment or qualified volunteer activities.
Applicants whose responses to the questionnaire “indicate possible use of a controlled substance without a prescription” will be required to undergo an approved substance abuse treatment program. Applicants who refuse testing or treatment will not be allowed to participate in the FSET program.
Waivers Rolled Back
Work requirements for food stamp programs have been a feature of federal law since 1999, but until they were reinstated in the 2015 budget bill, Wisconsin had operated under a waiver of those rules since the 2007 state budget cycle.
The 2017-2019 budget bill takes an additional step in the same direction by rolling back another decade-old waiver and re-imposing child support cooperation requirements on Foodshare recipients. The current budget bill creates statutory sections 49.79(6m) and 49.79(6q) through (6u), which will sanction both custodial and non-custodial parents who fail to “cooperate fully, in good faith” with efforts to establish paternity or enforce a child support order. Parents who are more than three months delinquent in child support payments can also be denied FoodShare benefits, but participating in the FSET program is one condition for exemption from sanctions for delinquency.
Food and Beverage Restrictions
Also back on the table, after having been rejected in 2015, is a legislative effort to restrict the types of food and beverage products that can be purchased using FoodShare benefits.
Assembly Bill 530 would require the Department of Health Services to develop a pilot program to identify categories of products or specific food items “that do not have sufficient nutritional value” and “restrict the use of benefits” for those products.
The list of restricted items would be developed “after consultation with interested parties, including food producers and sellers, and health-related organizations.” Opportunities for input by other stakeholders appear vague, especially since the proposed bill would exempt the pilot program from any formal rulemaking requirements, including public comment and hearings, and an economic impact analysis.