‘It’s really just a Band-Aid’: Food pantry CEO says wheel tax reimbursement isn’t enough

‘It’s really just a Band-Aid’: Food pantry CEO says wheel tax reimbursement isn’t enough

On Monday night, Madison’s finance committee passed an amendment to the city’s 2020 budget that would reimburse people on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, who pay the $40 wheel tax.

Some believe the program won’t help enough low-income families deal with the burden of the additional cost.

“The vehicle registration fee is going to be $40 regardless of income level or what kind of car you have. Many of us have been thinking about ways to offset that additional $40 for people who are either low-income or on a fixed income,” said Common Council President Shiva Bidar.

Bidar proposed the amendment, which takes $100,000 from the transportation budget to fund gift cards for the 2,495 Madison families currently on WIC. She said the finance committee showed unanimous support.

“Any family who is on the WIC program would come to the Public Health Department at their appointment with the proof of the payment of the vehicle registration fee and, if they live in the city of Madison, they would receive a $40 gift card,” said Bidar.

The gift cards can be used for anything.

“There’s a lot of research out there that will tell you that people who are low-income are able to make very good choices about how they spend their resources,” said Bidar. “It was important to make sure that we allow them to decide where it is that they want to spend the $40.”

.@riverpantry CEO & president says just reimbursing mothers who are on #WIC for the @CityofMadison $40 wheel tax doesn’t help enough people. It doesn’t include those on food stamps or other low-income families that need the food pantry resources. #news3now pic.twitter.com/lFnhXeYvs6

— Amanda Quintana (@AmandaQTV) October 22, 2019

While Bidar hopes this will help ease the burden of the wheel tax on low-income residents, the CEO and president of The River Food Pantry, Charles McLimans, said the program won’t help enough people.

“It’s not a solution. It’s really just a Band-Aid. We appreciate that the council is thinking about this and thinking about how this could adversely affect people who are low-income, but I would really encourage them to do more,” said McLimans.

With Madison’s $40 wheel tax, in addition to Dane County’s $28 tax, the basic car registration will be $153 a year.

McLimans said that will be an undue burden for many of the families who visit The River Food Pantry.

He said that by limiting the reimbursements to pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women with young children who are on WIC, the amendment is leaving out families on food stamps and many of the people who need resources such as the food pantry.

“There are other vulnerable populations and it does adversely affect communities of color. And it’s not equitable,” said McLimans.

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