The second week of the 2022 Iowa Legislative Session has drawn to a close, and what a week it was.
We have seen seven bills that target public assistance programs introduced in the House Human Resources Committee by Rep. Ann Meyer, who chairs the committee. Four of these bills have already come before subcommittees. Three were tabled, and one was passed with an amendment. See below for more information on each of them.
We are still waiting to see when the final three subcommittee meetings will be scheduled – including the subcommittee meeting for HSB 508, the worst of the bunch. This bill would establish an asset limit for SNAP of $2,500, which would make Iowa’s asset test tied with nine other states as the most restrictive in the country. Households with more than one vehicle would especially be vulnerable to losing their SNAP benefits.
If you or someone you know is at risk of losing their SNAP benefits due to this bill, our legislators need to know! We know many people may not be able to physically be present at the Capitol to testify for these subcommittee meetings, especially when they are scheduled with less than 24 hours of advance notice. We want to share your stories with legislators! Fill out the brief form below, and we will make sure we share your story with decision-makers at the Capitol.
If you can’t tell, we’re fired up. This week, IHC board member John Boller penned a letter to the editor for Little Village Mag condemning the attacks on public assistance programs, and Matt Unger from IHC member the Des Moines Area Religious Council wrote a guest column for the Des Moines Register.
Did you write your own letter to the editor about the attacks we’re seeing on SNAP and other public assistance programs? We want to know! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update on SNAP Bills
HSB 504 – Computerized system for identity authentication
Last Thursday, January 13, a subcommittee meeting was held for HSB 504, which would require all public assistance program applicants to complete a computerized questionnaire to authenticate their identity.
While this has the potential to increase access for some people (those with transportation or medical barriers, or without access to the required forms of identification), it also presents a significant access barrier to many people, especially those without internet access, limited credit history, or limited English proficiency. This requirement would also go against USDA regulations for SNAP. Were this new computerized identity authentication process an option, not a requirement, it would have the potential to increase access for SNAP applicants and would be in-line with USDA regulations.
Subcommittee Chair Rep. Tom Moore and Rep. Eddie Andrews ultimately passed the bill out of subcommittee with an amendment to allow for an “agent” of an individual to fill the questionnaire out on their behalf. Rep. Liz Bennett did not vote to recommend passage citing concerns raised by advocates.
Contact the subcommittee members below and ask them to amend this bill to make the computer questionnaire and optional process, not a requirement.
HSB 502 – Real-time verification
On Tuesday, January 18, a subcommittee meeting was held for HSB 502, which would direct DHS to create or contract with a third-party vendor to operate an automatic real-time eligibility verification system for public assistance programs in Iowa. Paired with some of the other bills we’ve seen introduced this session, this would create additional hoops for applicants to jump through and kick people off the program. Oh, and it goes against federal regulations for SNAP.
Anti-hunger advocates made a compelling case to subcommittee members Rep. Michael Bergan, Rep. Liz Bennett, and Rep. Steven Bradley with their concerns about the bill. The Department of Human Services (DHS) Director Kelly Garcia testified at the subcommittee meeting about the efforts that DHS is already pursuing in updating their computer eligibility systems. Director Garcia also shared that Iowa’s SNAP payment Error Rate for 2021 was 6.58%, just shy of the national average.
Subcommittee Chair Rep. Bergan tabled HSB 508 without a vote, and said the subcommittee will work with DHS on necessary amendments. This could be a good sign, but it’s important we keep up the pressure to make sure this bill doesn’t come back later as part of a larger package.
Contact the subcommittee members below today and tell them that we should not be creating any more barriers to access SNAP and other public assistance programs!
HSB 505 – Requiring custodial parents to cooperate with child support recovery unit
Also on Tuesday, January 18, a subcommittee meeting was held for HSB 505, which would require custodial parents to cooperate with the child support recovery unit or lose access to SNAP benefits. There is no evidence this type of policy generates significantly more child support payments to custodial households, and there is not a way to implement this provision that does not result in taking food away from children.
All three members of the subcommittee (Rep. Anne Osmundson, Rep. Steven Bradley, and Rep. Kristin Sunde) were surprised to learn that this bill would target custodial parents, and not non-custodial parents. The bill was tabled until a future meeting. It is unlikely that this will pass in its current form, but we need to be sure this bill does not end up in a larger package.
Contact the subcommittee members today and ask them to be clear that they will not support this legislation!
HSB 515 – Public assistance case reviews
On Thursday, January 20, a subcommittee meeting was held for HSB 515. On its own, this bill does not appear to change anything in existing law. Advocates and subcommittee members (Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, Rep. Marti Anderson, Rep. Dennis Bush) agreed that this doesn’t make sense on its own and submitted the bill back to the committee without recommendation. It is likely that we will see this piece added to another bill or included as part of a larger package.
Interestingly, Rep. Anderson and Rep. Bush both commented that they thought the current process is already too restrictive on people attempting to apply for and recertify their public benefits. We couldn’t agree more!
Contact the subcommittee members today and let them know we should be making making it easier to apply for public assistance programs, not looking at ways to make the process even more restrictive.