Reading Time: < 1 minute

Wisconsin Watch, a nonprofit newsroom, is partnering with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. Sign up for our newsletter for more stories straight to your inbox.


On April 4, 2023, an advisory referendum to impose a work requirement for welfare recipients was approved by voters in Wisconsin, with nearly 80% voting yes. The referendum asked, “Shall able-bodied, childless adults be required to look for work in order to receive taxpayer-funded benefits?”

The ballot question was non-binding and vague; the term “taxpayer-funded benefits” was not defined. Under current law, many Wisconsinites already need to seek employment to receive public benefits, including unemployment insurance. The work search requirement for FoodShare, the state’s food assistance program, was suspended due to the pandemic in October 2020. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, both Republicans, co-sponsored the referendum, which Democrats — including Gov. Tony Evers and Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard — criticized as pointless and a ploy to increase turnout among conservatives for the Wisconsin Supreme Court election. 

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


Ballotpedia Wisconsin question 3, work requirement for welfare benefits advisory question (April 2023)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Wisconsin voters back expanding work requirements for welfare benefits. Here’s why the vote is mostly symbolic

Wisconsin Public Radio In statewide referendums, voters OK expansion of judges’ power to set cash bail

Daily Cardinal Explaining Wisconsin’s upcoming referendums on cash bail reform, welfare work requirements

Wisconsin Department Of Health Services FoodShare Employment and Training: About FSET

Popular stories from Wisconsin Watch

Avatar photo

Jacob Alabab-Moser / Wisconsin WatchFact Checker

Jacob Alabab-Moser joined as Wisconsin Watch’s fact checker in September 2022, as part of the effort by The Gigafact Project in partnership with different state-level news outlets to combat misinformation in the 2022 midterm elections. Jacob has several years of experience as a fact checker and research assistant at a variety of organizations, including at The Gigafact Project. He holds a BA from Brown University and is pursuing a MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science.