Dane County Executive Joe Parisi is leading a statewide coalition calling for the immediate suspension of state plans to fully privatize the Wisconsin Works (W-2) program.
W-2 is a program that helps people get back on their feet after times of trouble, such as losing a job. It connects low-income families with employment opportunities and emergency assistance.
W-2 is currently administered by 40 counties across Wisconsin, but Parisi said the state is quickly advancing changes to who administers the program.
Recently the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families started taking bids, from both the private and public sectors to start running it the program.
Parisi said cuts proposed by the Department of Children and Families would come at the worst possible time. He also questioned the effectiveness of a private model to run W-2.
"If the state wants to say this works better in privatization, let's compare some of the results, say from Dane County and other counties who do it themselves with some counties where it's been privatized, and I think you could talk to some of the people in these counties where it's been privatized and you'll find that the results have not been great," Parisi said.
Parisi said he also wants further explanation from the state as to why it wants to privatize the program.
"It's also incumbent on the state, if they're going to come in and wipe out a program in a couple months without any legislative action, just to quietly issue an RFP, it's incumbent on the state to tell us why," Parisi said.
Parisi said the affect on Wisconsin families could be significant and include a loss of resources such as Job Centers that that provide families with access to all of the programs they may need for employment, food assistance, job fair opportunities and more.
The statewide coalition, comprised of dozens of Wisconsin Counties, state lawmakers, The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, The Wisconsin Counties Association, and other private partners including area faith leaders, urged state leaders to work on a compromise to their proposal with county administrators.
A letter to state leaders from the Wisconsin Counties Association, signed by Dane County and 31 other counties that administer W-2, detailed additional concerns with the state's proposal, including the counties' inability to compete for the chance to continue running W-2.
Parisi said that both the aggressive deadline for bid proposals and the conditions contained within the state's bid request make it impossible for the counties that are most knowledgeable and experienced in providing quality services to compete for the contract.