Gov. Evers reaches deal with federal government to preserve $70 million per month in food benefits

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announces a deal to preserve federal food benefits

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to preserve more than $70 million per month in federal food benefits that were set to expire at the end of the month.

The governor’s office announced the agreement Tuesday afternoon. Earlier this year, the Biden administration changed the amounts going to states, resulting in the increased funding.

“More than $70 million a month means we can get support to a lot of folks across our state who are still struggling in the midst of a pandemic and need help putting food on the table,” said Gov. Evers. “I’m proud we were able to work with our federal partners to come to an agreement that will ensure we can keep providing these critical resources to Wisconsinites across our state.”

The benefits were at risk of being lost after the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the governor’s emergency order last month. The federal program for additional food assistance funding is set to run through June, but Wisconsin stood to lose $50 million each in May and June because of the Court’s decision, because states need to have an emergency order in place in order to receive the benefits from the federal government.

Karen Timberlake, secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, issued a declaration last Thursday on the state’s COVID response. Gov. Evers convinced the federal government the declaration could provide the basis needed to qualify for the extra food aid to states.

Last week, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services had said if the Court waited one more day to make their ruling, benefits for May would have been secured.

The governor’s office says he worked with the USDA and the Food and Nutrition Service to find a way to secure those benefits, even as the Supreme Court case was being heard and deliberated. Ultimately, the USDA and FNS agreed to allow states to gain approval for two months, rather than a single month, of SNAP benefits.

The Republican-controlled state legislature did pass a bill that included preservation of the funding in February, but the bill included measures opposed by Democrats and was eventually vetoed by Evers. That legislative package was the first for COVID relief that lawmakers had voted on since the previous April; originally, Republicans came to a compromise with the governor over a passable bill before adding additional measures that Democrats couldn’t get behind.

Lawmakers could have introduced a standalone bill to preserve the benefits but Assembly Speaker Robin Vos opposed the idea, and–in a Tuesday press conference shortly before the deal was reached–invited Democratic lawmakers to join Republicans in overriding the governor’s veto.