W-2 (or Wisconsin Works) is the program that gives assistance and some money for people below a certain level of income. According to this week's LFB report on W-2, the Walker Administration feels comfortable releasing some funds it had held back due to a dispute with the feds over how it billed certain services. Basically, the state won't have to pay back all of the funds it claimed with one of its methods, so that money can be used elsewhere.
But the problem is that the Walker folks predicted that the welfare rolls would shrink in Wisconsin, and instead they have gone way up over the last year. As a result, the state needs millions in additional funds to make up the difference.
Coinciding with the implementation of the new 2013-2016 W-2 agency contracts on January 1, 2013, caseloads and expenditures began to increase in January, 2013. As a result, additional funding of $9,882,500 in 2013-14 and $8,402,000 in 2014-15 was provided for W-2 benefit payments by the Legislature under 2013 Act 20. The increase in funding for W-2 benefit payments assumed that caseloads and expenditures would decline by 1% per month, beginning April, 2013. In addition, Act 20 changed statutory provisions to codify the practice under the 2013-2016 W-2 agency contracts of having DCF, rather than a W-2 agency, making W-2 benefit payments.LFB goes onto say that if the amount of expenses and W-2 enrollment remains at those high September 2013 levels, then the state will have to come up with another $16.9 million until the end of this year to fully fund W-2, since they budgeted a much lower amount of cases. The Governor has only asked for $9.9 million of these funds at this time, and instead will use the rest of the money to go to a minor program targeting at-risk youth in Milwaukee, provides Medicaid's lapse for this budget, and leave around $7 million unfunded as of this time.
With the exception of expenditure amounts in March, 2013, declining from February, 2013, W-2 paid caseloads and expenditures have increased every month through September, 2013, in CY 2013...
The caseload in CY 2013 has increased 15.6% from January, 2013, through September, 2013. Monthly expenditures increased 18.4% over this same time period.
Now the key question for tomorrow is this. Will the GOP-run Joint Finance Committee fully fund W-2, or compromise and approve Walker's lower level of funding? Or do they look at these numbers, and say "Let the poor fry!", and not fund it at all? I'd keep an eye on this, because will the GOPs go full-on Bagger, will they take the middle ground, or will they use some of their alleged surplus to help some of the people being increasingly left behind in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan? I think the answer will tell a lot.
But one thing there is no doubt about is that for an increasing amount of low-income Wisconsinites, it's not working, despite the Governor's talking up of the (tepid) increase of jobs in the state. It also makes you wonder if it's time to raise the state's minimum wage and other wage structures, because we should not be seeing a 17.4% year-over-year increase in W-2 cases if more people are allegedly working unless people are not getting paid SQUAT. The large amount of low-wage jobs is a real problem in this country and especially here, and it's something that should be hit at hard by any candidate looking to grab bystanders, because it illustrates the real, deep problem of the two-tier society that everyone can see, but far too few politicians want to talk about.