FILE - Food Stamps, Snap, Store

Wisconsin is joining states across the nation in fighting reforms from the Trump Administration aimed at making sure that only people who qualify for food assistance are getting food assistance. 

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul on Tuesday said he is opposing efforts to "take basic food assistance away from more than three million people, disqualify hundreds of thousands of children from free school meals, and punish working families with modest savings."

Kaul, along with attorneys general in 24 other states, are fighting an end to the broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE) monitored under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 

The Trump Administration proposed back in July to end BBCE, and instead focus on people who traditionally qualify for food stamps under SNAP. 

A family of four making about $48,000 a year qualifies for food stamps. BBCE expands that to families who receive any kind of public benefit. That includes Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Social Security Insurance, or other state general aid programs. BBCE means many more people are getting food stamps than Congress intended. 

Kaul says rolling back income guidelines to where they started is mean-spirited.

“This proposed rule is nothing short of cruel. If it goes into effect, thousands of Wisconsinites will lose their FoodShare benefits," Kaul said. "More than half of the Wisconsinites who will lose those benefits will be children or seniors. And, this rule will result in increased bureaucracy and administrative costs.”

Not so fast, said Sam Adolphsen at The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA). 

"No matter how many times people say so, eliminating BBCE will not take away free or reduced priced lunches from kids," Adolpshen said. "If anything, closing the loophole will ensure these benefits are actually available for those that need them. The only people losing benefits will be those with incomes far in excess of original program requirements, people who never should have been receiving food stamps to begin with."

The FGA wrote a policy piece in July that calculated how many kids would lose food stamps or school lunches. Researchers said 99.9 percent of kids who get a free school lunch will still get a free lunch under standard eligibility guidelines. 

"The scare tactics being deployed by these partisan Attorney Generals are shameful," Adolphsen said. "But what's more shameful is their use of blatant lies to back up their claims."

"Under broad-based categorical eligibility, there is no tracking or checking of assets, which is exactly why the Trump administration is closing this egregious loophole," Adolphsen said. "BBCE makes people with higher incomes, up to double the federal poverty level, eligible for food stamps, including millionaires."

A Minnesota man and his wife, worth more than $1 million, successfully enrolled in the SNAP program and testified before a Minnesota House committee last year about it.

A lawsuit from the attorneys general says the Trump Administration is over-stepping its bounds, and did not follow the proper procedure in changing the food stamp rules through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program.

Staff Writer

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.