Yesterday, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Senate File 494 into law. The Iowa Hunger Coalition, along with a broad coalition of advocates and groups, has been opposed to this legislation from the start, and had called on Gov. Reynolds to veto SF 494. We are disappointed in the decision by Gov. Reynolds to sign SF 494 into law, but not surprised.
The simple fact is SF 494 will remove thousands of Iowans from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The additional administrative hurdles contained in SF 494, including an asset test for SNAP, will create more barriers for struggling Iowans trying to access assistance.
SNAP enrollment in Iowa is nearing a 15-year low. Meanwhile, food banks, food pantries, and other anti-hunger organizations across the state are seeing record-breaking numbers of people turning to them for assistance. Clearly, SNAP is already inaccessible to tens of thousands of Iowans facing food insecurity. Instead of improving access to nutrition benefits, Iowa’s leaders have chosen to target SNAP and other public assistance programs Iowans rely on.
It is not lost on us that, on the day before signing SF 494, Gov. Reynolds announced $5 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to support food bank infrastructure in Iowa. As the Governor rightfully stated in the accompanying release, “access to fresh foods is a challenge for those facing food insecurity and soaring inflation has made it even harder.”
We dispute, however, the Governor’s assertion that “Iowa is making long-term investments to reduce food insecurity in our communities.” Make no mistake: this one-time $5 million investment of federal funds to Iowa’s food banks will not make up for the upwards of $18 million estimated to be denied in SNAP benefits to Iowans on an annual basis as a result of SF 494. SNAP is the best tool we have in the fight against food insecurity, and private charity is not a replacement for social safety net programs.
To top it off, the bipartisan federal debt ceiling deal is poised to expand SNAP work requirements to adults age 50-54. It is estimated this will kick 9,000 older Iowans off the program. Research on work requirements has shown that they do not lead people to meaningful employment, but instead remove people from SNAP who cannot meet the requirement and leave them worse-off than they were before.
These policy changes will harm Iowa and increase hunger and food insecurity in our state. Thousands of Iowans will be negatively impacted by the actions of our state and federal government. Too many Iowans are struggling right now. Increased costs for essentials like food, housing, and health care still outpace wages. As a state, we should be coming together to make sure all our neighbors have the food they need to live and thrive. Instead, these attacks on SNAP will take food off the tables of Iowans.