This morning, SF 494 narrowly passed the Iowa House Appropriations Committee on a 13-11-1 vote. Three Republicans (Rep. Michael Bergan, Rep. Brian Lohse, and Rep. David Young) joined Democrats in voting “No” on SF 494. One Democrat was absent, Rep. Tracy Ehlert, who had previously opposed the measure in subcommittee and is assumed would have cast a “No” vote as well, which would have brought the vote total to 13-12.
It was also announced at today’s House Appropriations Committee that there will be a public hearing on SF 494 before it can be brought to the House floor for a vote. The public hearing will happen sometime next week, though we do not have a date or time for it yet. We will receive at least 24 hour notice, and will be sure to get the word out as soon as it’s scheduled!
All in all, today could have gone at lot worse, and right now, we’re feeling really energized and hopeful. The public hearing next week will be absolutely crucial in stopping this bill. If the House were to pass SF 494 as written, it would head to the Governor’s desk for signature.
We need to have a strong showing at the public hearing, so please start spreading the word and preparing comments and testimony. We’ll let you know as soon as the hearing is scheduled.
This morning, both HF 613 and SF 494 advanced out of House Appropriations Subcommittees on 3-2 party-line votes. Each of these subcommittee meetings were limited to 15 minutes. The chair of both subcommittees told advocates they were only to speak about the appropriations aspects of these bills (which is a little hard to do when we don’t yet have a fiscal note for HF 613).
We had a packed room full of advocates speaking out against these bills and sharing how they would harm Iowans. Unfortunately, those concerns fell on some deaf ears. The fact is these bills would increase administrative costs by millions of dollars and add hundreds of employees to the payroll at HHS, all in an effort to remove Iowans from public assistance programs. And the savings to the state for removing people from SNAP? Zero. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Thank you to all our advocates for everything you are doing to fight back against these harmful bills. Your voices are so vital to this work, and we truly can’t thank you enough.
It’s unusual that we saw subcommittees for both HF 613 (the House’s version of the bill) and SF 494 (the Senate version, which already passed the Senate). And it’s definitely not a good sign. House Republicans may be keeping their options open by advancing both bills. There may still be some disagreement on which bill to pursue in the House. We simply don’t know at this point.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Both of these bills will now head to the full House Appropriations Committee for consideration. We have heard the Appropriations Committee may vote on one or both of these bills as early as Thursday.
Please contact the members of the House Appropriations Committee below and ask them to vote NO on HF 613 and SF 494.
Here’s some of the latest SNAP statistics from February 2023 on the areas these legislators represent:
In counties fully or partially represented by Rep. Joel Fry (Clarke, Decatur, Lucas, and Wayne), the number of SNAP participants is at an 18-year low. 9.2% of the population receives SNAP (2,990 individuals), and the average per-meal benefit is $1.68. SNAP benefits generated an estimated $695,016 in economic impact in these counties in February.
In Linn County, portions of which are represented by Rep. Tracy Ehlert, the number of SNAP participants is at a 14-year low. 9.2% of the population receives SNAP (21,062 individuals), and the average per-meal benefit is $1.81. SNAP benefits generated an estimated $5.3 million in economic impact in Linn County in February alone.
In Polk County, portions of which are represented by Rep. Heather Matson, the number of SNAP participants is at a 13-year low. 10.3% of the population receives SNAP (50,623 individuals), and the average per-meal benefit is $1.85. SNAP benefits generated an estimated $13.0 million in economic impact in Polk County in February.
In Webster County, portions of which are represented by Rep. Ann Meyer, the number of SNAP participants is at a 14-year low. 11.9% of the population receives SNAP (4,387 individuals), and the average per-meal benefit is $1.81. SNAP benefits generated an estimated $1.1 million in Webster County in February.
In counties fully or partially represented by Rep. Henry Stone (Emmet, Kossuth, and Winnebago), the number of SNAP participants has recently seen an uptick, but is still below pre-pandemic levels. 6.8% of the population receives SNAP (2,336 individuals), and the average per-meal benefit is $1.72. SNAP benefits generated an estimated $557,004 in economic impact in these counties in February.
You can also submit a public comment online, but we do recommend reaching out directly to legislators, as public comments are not guaranteed to be read.
We still have not seen a fiscal note for HF 613, but the fiscal note for SF 494, a similar but more limited bill, would spend millions of dollars and hire hundreds of new employees – and no savings would be seen from SNAP. The fiscal note for HF 613 is sure to be even more costly, given the added piece the House bill contains that are not in the Senate’s version.
Yesterday evening, the Iowa Senate passed Senate File 494 on a 34-16 party line vote, the same day a fiscal note was released for the bill. Similar pieces of legislation have passed the Senate before, and we have always known our fight is in the House. We are not discouraged by the passage of SF 494. Rather, we are re-energized to stop this harmful piece of legislation.
SF 494 and a similar bill in the House, HF 613, would remove Iowans from SNAP and other public assistance programs and increase hunger and food insecurity in the state. They would increase SNAP administrative costs to the state of Iowa in an effort to make it more difficult for struggling Iowans to access nutrition benefits.
Make no mistake – Iowans would be harmed by these bills. Families would be harmed. Children would be harmed. Seniors would be harmed. People with disabilities would be harmed. Food banks and food pantries would be harmed. Other nonprofit organizations and social service agencies would be harmed. Local grocery stores would be harmed. Rural communities would be harmed. Farmers would be harmed. Iowa’s economy would be harmed.
We hope the legislators who supported SF 494 felt a pang of guilt when they cast their ‘yes’ vote.
SF 494 would increase administrative hurdles and remove people from SNAP and other public assistance programs in Iowa. This bill would establish an asset test for SNAP in Iowa and make it more difficult for people to apply for and recertify for their SNAP benefits.
SNAP enrollment in Iowa is currently at a 14-year low. Meanwhile, food banks, food pantries, and anti-hunger organizations from across the state are seeing record-breaking numbers of Iowans turning to them for assistance. The state should be increasing access to SNAP for Iowans facing food insecurity, not making it more difficult to access the program.
Efforts to increase the amount of administrative work for SNAP will only increase costs to the state. SNAP benefits are 100% federally funded, and the state has a 50-50 cost share with USDA on administrative costs, which have remained relatively stable for over 10 years. Any efforts to increase the amount of administrative efforts for SNAP will actually only increase the amount of money the state spends on the program.
We still don’t know how much this legislation will cost. How much will it cost the state to implement these new eligibility verification systems and asset test for SNAP? We don’t know! There has not yet been a fiscal note for this bill, so we don’t know about the potential costs to the state this will have.
On Tuesday, February 28, both HF 3 and SSB 1105 came before their respective Health and Human Services Committees. Both bills advanced out committee with amendment – on a party-line vote in the Senate, and with two Republicans (Rep. Eddie Andrews and Rep. Brian Lohse) joining the Democrats to vote against House File 3 in the House.
Please take the time to send a note of thanks to all those who voted against these bad bills!
Let’s not forget – SNAP enrollment in Iowa is at a 14-year low right now. SNAP benefits are 100% federally funded, and the state has a 50-50 cost share on administrative costs with the USDA, which have remained stable for over 10 years. This legislation is a solution in search of a problem.