Yishai looks to scrap Wisconsin Plan

The Plan threatens to take away people's social welfare benefits if they refuse to participate.

eli yishai looking sharp (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
eli yishai looking sharp
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai is working on drastic changes to the controversial "welfare-to-work" plan, which will in effect lead to the cancellation of the so-called Wisconsin Plan altogether. "The Wisconsin program as it is operated today is in such a bad situation that the changes required will in effect translate into a new program altogether," said sources close to Yishai. "What we need is a program, which also takes into account the special needs of each unemployed and thus, we are working on a program, which would include special employment tracks, for example, for the physically handicapped, single mothers and those just below retirement age, who until now have been suffering under the stringent requirements of the current program." The Wisconsin Plan has drawn criticism since it was inaugurated in August 2005 for threatening to take away people's social welfare benefits if they refuse to participate. The program as is operated today forces a large number of participants who have difficulties in finding work, such as those with special needs, single mothers and elderly people, to spend 30 to 40 hours a week at the designated employment centers or their guaranteed income benefits would be revoked. Despite the fact that Yishai only recently passed a number of changes in an attempt to overhaul the Wisconsin Plan in an effort to ease conditions of the program, he changed the direction towards the need for a complete reformulation following personal visits in which he listened to complaints at two of the four employment centers in Hadera and in Ashkelon. The annual poverty report published by the Israel's National Insurance Institute (NII), on Thursday, showed that 1.6 million Israelis lived below the poverty line including 404,000 families. Still, Yishai will not be able to cancel the Wisconsin Plan over the next couple of months as the four multi-national, for-profit companies running the program have a contract set to expire by the end of the year. According to Yishai, people who have not held a job in the last couple of years, despite participation in the current plan, mentally or physically handicapped people, drug addicts and/or homeless people were among those who were constrained and not gaining any ground by being forced to be at the centers. In addition, participants, who are a couple of years below retirement age, whose chances of being incorporated into Israel's work force as a result of time spent in Wisconsin Plan centers is relatively low, would benefit from a newly formulated program. Single mothers with children under the age of 12 who are only able to work part-time would also benefit. This month, 83 Knesset members put their support behind a bill submitted this week calling for the Wisconsin Plan to be scrapped.