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‘More people are going to struggle,’ Struck-down emergency order means federal food funding will get cut off

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin is set to lose millions of dollars in federal funding that helps people in need get food, and it's because of Wednesday's ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Justices overturned the governor's emergency order and mask mandate, saying he overstepped his authority in extending them. Since the state had an emergency order, it was eligible for money for food assistance through the federal CARES Act.

But without the statewide emergency order, that funding goes away.

"What it means is that more people are going to struggle with hunger," said Kris Tazelaar with Second Harvest FoodBank.

He says people who've never had to reach out for help had to during the pandemic by using pantries, but also by spending FoodShare money, which they can use at supermarkets.

"In some cases, prior to the pandemic, they were getting maybe about $16 per month on the FoodShare benefits," Tazelaar said. "But because of the pandemic, they were up to about $264."

That extra money will all go away, and it adds up. In total, it's just shy of $50 million people in Wisconsin will no longer have access to.

Tazelaar says the ruling came just as some people were getting back on their feet.

"That's happening right at the time where things are starting to get turned around for these folks," he said. "And we were just on the edge of being able to kind of turn a corner, and now they're being brought back."

The River Food Pantry is also concerned about the impact this will have.

"The need will increase immensely for the food pantries and our local communities," said director of operations Lee Cole.

Cole said he's worried that people with dietary restrictions won't be able to go out and buy the food they need.

"If somebody is a diabetic, how can they get the low sugar foods that they get?" he said. "We get a lot of donations here at the River. But you know, we don't get those specific items."

In Southwestern Wisconsin, 125,000 people are still struggling with hunger, which is why losing that federal help is such a big blow.

"We just hope that the lawmakers do what's right and help people eat," Cole said.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) told our Milwaukee affiliate, "The first bill of the legislative session included a provision that addressed FoodShare funding, but the governor vetoed it."

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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