For Immediate Release — January 23, 1997
Contact: David Blaska (608) 267-4400
MADISON — Gov. Tommy G. Thompson today announced that Pierce and Fond du Lac Counties have agreed to fully implement the complete Wisconsin Works welfare replacement program on March 1.
“Welfare in this country ended in Fond du Lac and Pierce counties. It is only fitting that those counties begin W-2,” Gov. Thompson said. “Both are eager to continue their roles as pioneers in helping people regain their financial independence and personal self-respect. That’s what W-2 is all about: people on the local level giving their neighbors a helping hand up.”
Two years ago, Fond du Lac and Pierce counties began a W-2 predecessor program, Work Not Welfare. It was the first welfare reform in the nation to require work and place a time limit (two years) on how long an individual can receive welfare checks.
Since the inception of Work Not Welfare on January 1, 1995, welfare caseloads in the two counties declined 59.6 percent.
“We are improving people’s economic situations, not just pushing them off welfare,” said Fond du Lac County Executive Allen Buechel. “People who have gone through the program tell us that, for the first time in their lives, they are proud of themselves because they are self-supporting and are taking care of their families.”
“In Pierce County, we’re changing lives for the better,” said Pierce County Board Chairman Richard Wilhelm. “Participants have moved from dependence to self-sufficiency. Their children are proud to talk about where their parents work.”
Since January 1987, Fond du Lac County has reduced its caseload 77 percent (to 266) and Pierce County has reduced its by 82 percent (to 64 cases). The state as a whole has reduced welfare dependence by 54 percent in the last 10 years. More than 51,000 families and over 90,000 children have been freed from welfare dependency during that time.
Pierce and Fond du Lac Counties have set up Community Steering Committees, which have formed strong partnerships between industry, the community, and public and private agencies. The steering committees create public/private sector jobs, resolve child care and transportation issues and provide guidance to participants and program administrators — in reality a true public-private partnership at the local and state level.
Wisconsin Works offers four work options that will help former welfare recipients “climb the career ladder.” Each step up the ladder toward an unsubsidized job is limited to a maximum of 24 months but no more than five years in total.
W-2 provides subsidized child care and health care for eligible participants. They also remain eligible for food stamps and other assistance, depending on income. W-2 has a 60-day residency requirement for eligibility. Parents are eligible for work requirements after their children are 12 weeks old. Teenage parents receive child care assistance so they can remain in school.
For more information, contact:
Fond du Lac County Executive Allen Buechel: 414/929-3155
Pierce County Human Services Director Dale Melstrom: 715/273-6777