Eliminating Evers’ mask order could cost Wisconsin $49 million in food assistance

By: - January 28, 2021 8:57 am
Supermarket produce areas with tomatoes and cucumbers

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

The Wisconsin Senate rushed through a resolution authored by Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) to eliminate Gov. Tony Evers’ most recent public health order without any hearing — and without discovering it could potentially take $49 million in emergency food assistance for low-income Wisconsin residents and people who have lost their jobs in the pandemic.

The Assembly is scheduled to meet Thursday morning. Before knowing of this fiscal impact, leaders had planned to  move  forward quickly to kill the public health order and mask requirement.

It is unclear if the new information will change their plans.

Rep. Evan Goyke and Rep. Chris Taylor exchange with the rest of the comittee members. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)
Rep. Evan Goyke and Rep. Chris Taylor at a Joint Finance Committee meeting. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)

Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) received confirmation of this impact in an analysis of the resolution that he requested from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

It shows that as many as 243,000 households could lose food through Wisconsin’s FoodShare program.

“Certainly this was not thoroughly researched and done,” Goyke told Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Wednesday evening. “I’m glad that we got a question posed in time to get an answer. I just don’t know that it’s in time to get Republicans in the Legislature to change their mind.

“If you’re asking me should a lawmaker know whether their resolution takes $49 million of benefits away from a quarter million Wisconsinites? Yes, they should know that. And if they don’t, they shouldn’t be in public office.”

The number of public health and health care organizations registering against the measure had climbed to 31 on the day of the Senate vote. Despite the sweeping opposition, the measure passed in the Senate with two Republicans joining all Democrats to vote against it. Because it is a resolution, Evers has no veto ability, so if the Assembly passes it today, it takes effect.

“For over nine months the Republicans who control the legislature have sat on their hands,” said Senate Democratic leader Janet Bewley in a statement. “Instead of moving Wisconsin forward, they have taken away one of the few tools we have in our toolbox to protect Wisconsinites against the COVID-19 virus. “Today is a sad day for Wisconsin, where once again the Republicans have chosen to prioritize settling political scores with the Governor, over protecting the lives of the citizens of Wisconsin.” 

Republicans have focused on challenging the governor’s power to continue a public health emergency beyond its original 60 days. The GOP leaders have endorsed a legal challenge on the issue brought by a right-wing law firm that is currently pending in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

“Republicans are choosing their political party, choosing politics, choosing ideology over the health and lives of Wisconsinites,” Goyke said in a tweet. “Public health and the safety of our friends and neighbors must remain our top priority as we fight this pandemic.”

Gov. Tony Evers’ spokesperson slammed the measure on Twitter, writing, “Republicans are poised to end Wisconsin’s only remaining statewide strategy to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives while ~243,000 Wisconsin households could lose nearly $50 million in food assistance—all because they’re upset about @GovEvers’ authority.”




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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin was the Wisconsin Examiner's founding Deputy Editor, serving from its launch July 1, 2019, until Feb. 1, 2022. She is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications before returning to journalism at the Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.