In 1994, Governor Thompson unveiled Wisconsin Works (W-2), a bipartisan plan that would dramatically reform welfare by ending cash handouts and placing a greater emphasis on work. W-2 programs subsidize employment, help parents find childcare, and even provide transportation assistance to adults who have found jobs. Since inception, W-2 programs have served as a model for national welfare reform, and have helped thousands of Wisconsin families get back on their feet by providing individuals the tools they need to become self-sufficient.
In recent years, the state has started to back away from the principles that made W-2 a success. The underlying premise of W-2—that honest individuals willing to work should be given a helping hand—was forgotten as fraud infected the system and criminals stole from taxpayers and the truly needy. For example, under the Doyle administration, Wisconsin law allowed an applicant for assistance to lie twice (!) before they could be subject to sanction. As Governor Walker’s Taskforce on Waste, Fraud, and Abuse recently discovered, this type of program administration made a mockery of program integrity and cost taxpayers roughly $200 million annually. I believe Wisconsin deserves better.
To that end, I have teamed up with Representative Scott Krug and Senator Alberta Darling to introduce legislation to give the Department of Children and Families the tools they need to go after welfare cheats. My legislation ensures W-2 programs continue to emphasize the importance of work while giving honest individuals the assistance they need to get back on their feet.
First, the bill fixes a fundamental problem in the law, and makes it clear that applicants cannot lie on their forms when applying for W-2 benefits. Second, this proposal cuts through red tape and allows front-line workers in W-2 agencies to apply sanctions when applicants have been caught lying. Finally, the legislation creates a more progressive system of sanctions that will protect taxpayers from dishonest individuals who would steal not only from the state, but from the truly needy.
I will continue to work to root out waste, fraud, and abuse in our public assistance programs. Not only does this protect taxpayers, but ensures that we can continue to help those who are truly needy. That's Integrity!
To contact me with any questions or comments or to sign up for my regular e-updates, please send an e-mail to Rep.Knodl@legis.wi.gov or call me at (608) 266-3796.
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