Join IHC for Our Annual Meeting on July 6

The Iowa Hunger Coalition will be holding our annual meeting on Wednesday, July 6, from 10am-12pm. We will be holding the annual meeting online via Zoom again this year.

At our annual meeting we’ll reflect on the past year together, provide an update on the past legislative session and work together to brainstorm policy ideas for our state legislative agenda for the 2023 session.

 
We hope to see you on July 6!

Anti-Hunger Advocates Warn of Increased Food Insecurity in April Due to Drop in SNAP Benefits

Anti-hunger advocates across the state are warning of increased food insecurity coming in April due to a loss in benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known in Iowa as Food Assistance. The change is the result of Iowa ending its Public Health Disaster Emergency Proclamation on February 15, 2022.

SNAP participants will see a loss in benefits of at least $95 per household in April, with many experiencing an even greater reduction in benefits. The average SNAP benefit for individuals will drop from $2.65 per meal to an estimated $1.52 per meal. Total SNAP benefits issued in the state of Iowa will decrease by an estimated $29.5 million, or 42.6%. 290,545 Iowans received SNAP benefits in the month of February.

“Starting in April, my SNAP benefits will be reduced by the state from $250 to $20 per month,” said Des Moines resident Tara Kramer. “Quality of life relies on access to healthy food. My nutritional requirements are currently being met only because I have been able to purchase food appropriate for me with the additional SNAP benefits I have been receiving. Food is medicine, and my doctors have noticed a difference in my overall well being. $20 a month means I’ll be getting 22 cents to put towards each meal. I am terrified of my health declining, especially during a pandemic.”

“My family of four will see our SNAP benefits decrease by $254 in April. The additional SNAP benefits we have been receiving for the past two years have reduced stress and allowed my family to eat way more fresh fruits and vegetables and buy convenient food items like baby puffs, fruit bars, and cheese sticks for my kids,” said Iowa City resident Cecelia Proffit. “We also recently lost the monthly enhanced child tax credit payments in January and are feeling the financial pinch, especially with gas and heating costs rising. We’ll have a lot less money to spend on food now. If we can’t buy it with SNAP, we can’t buy it.”

“We will be choosing between medication and food, and we know several other seniors that are in the same position,” said a woman from Butler County who receives SNAP benefits and wishes to remain anonymous. “My husband has mesothelioma and I am on disability. With inflation and the cost of food like it is, we need the pandemic-level SNAP benefits to continue, but we are seniors, so I guess the government just wants us to dry up and blow away.”

“My SNAP benefits are being reduced to $20 per month, which will leave me no choice but to give up medical treatment, or medicine, or whatever else it takes to make a meal,” said a senior living in Sac County who does not wish to be identified. “You would think that a person like me who worked two to three jobs all my life and raised two children on my own would be treated much better in my latter years. With inflation and a simple loaf of bread being close to $3.50, it will be peanut butter for me. I will have no other choice. It’s a sad day in Iowa.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has allowed states to issue Emergency Allotments for SNAP, granting the maximum possible benefit amount to program participants. Iowa began issuing Emergency Allotments to SNAP participants in April 2020. A state must have an emergency declaration in place to receive and distribute Emergency Allotments, and USDA has granted states a one-month phase-out of these additional benefits once an emergency declaration has been lifted. March was the phase-out month of SNAP Emergency Allotments in Iowa.

Food pantries and other anti-hunger organizations are also concerned about the increased traffic they will see as people turn to them to make ends meet. Strained supply chains and inflation have led to higher food prices and transportation costs for anti-hunger organizations as well as consumers, making it more expensive to provide the same level of services.

“Families we serve are already feeling the financial pinch with rising food costs. When April comes, we are bracing for some of the highest needs we’ve ever been asked to meet,” said Kaila Rome, Executive Director at the North Liberty Community Pantry. “It will take a community effort of volunteers, donors and advocates to weather this policy-induced storm.”

“We’re expecting to see a fairly sizable increase in food pantry visitors over the next couple months,” said Matt Unger, Chief Executive Officer of the Des Moines Area Religious Council. “We’ve seen this happen at our Food Pantry Network previously when there have been changes to SNAP benefits. We saw it with the sunset of increased SNAP benefits after the 2009 recession and we saw it again with the government shutdown in January 2019. We’ve been preparing for this and trying to make sure both the people we assist and those who support our work see it coming.”

“Food pantries in Iowa are already struggling to secure enough food to meet the existing need,” said John Boller, Executive Director of the Coralville Community Food Pantry. “Unless something changes, once SNAP allotments decrease significantly in April, we will very likely see longer lines, food shortages, and worker burnout in the nonprofit anti-hunger sector.”

Anti-hunger advocates encourage the public to support their local food bank, food pantry, food rescue organization, and other anti-hunger organizations through donations of funds, food, and volunteer time. The Iowa Hunger Coalition also encourages members of the public to contact their state legislators and ask them not to create additional hurdles for Iowans to access SNAP and other public assistance programs, such as those proposed in House File 2438.

“Just as Iowans will be losing hundreds in monthly SNAP benefits, they may also be facing additional red tape in a new system that is designed to deny benefits to people who are eligible,” said Natalie Veldhouse, chair of the Iowa Hunger Coalition. “Bills like House File 2438 vilify Iowans experiencing hunger. Hunger is a policy choice that is shaped by our state’s low wages, stifled workers’ rights, and policy history of excluding people of color from economic opportunity.”

Legislative Update: First Funnel

This week marked an important point in the 2022 Iowa Legislative Session: first funnel. Any non-budgetary bills that have not been voted out of a House or Senate committee by this point are effectively dead (with some exceptions).

On Monday, February 14, a subcommittee meeting was held for HSB 698. This was a re-combined bill that included many of the proposed bills concerning public assistance programs we saw introduced at the start of the session.

Thanks to the hard work of advocates like you, the proposed asset limit for SNAP was not included in HSB 698. This would have been incredibly harmful. However, there were still a few pieces of the bill, such as requiring custodial parents to cooperate with the child support recovery unit or lose access to SNAP benefits, that were still problematic. Despite these concerns from advocates, HSB 698 was voted out of subcommittee on Monday on a party-line 2-1 vote.

Then, the next morning of Tuesday, February 15, HSB 698 was already on the agenda for consideration before the full House Human Resources Committee. After some discussion, an amendment to tighten the timeline for implementation, and Democrats voicing their concerns with the bill, HSB 698 was voted out of committee on a 13-8 party-line vote.

Now that this is no longer a “study bill,” it has been renamed as House File 2438. It now is eligible for debate and a vote on the floor of the full House of Representatives. Please contact your Representative and let them know you do not support HF 2438.


While we are disappointed to see this bill advance past the first funnel, we do want to praise the work of advocates in stopping the proposed asset limit for SNAP.
Give yourself a pat on the back – we don’t get to celebrate our wins often enough.

And the fight isn’t over yet – if HF 2438 does pass the House, it will move to the Senate, and we will need to make sure there are no attempts to re-introduce some of the incredibly harmful policy proposals that we stopped in the House.

Thank you for all you have done, and will continue to do, in the fight to end hunger and food insecurity in Iowa.

Legislative Update: Week 5

Revised SNAP Bill Introduced in the House

House Study Bill 698 was introduced by Rep. Ann Meyer on Wednesday, February 9. This bill combines the multiple SNAP bills that were introduced this session into a single bill. Thankfully, some of the more harmful provisions, including the asset limit for SNAP, have been removed. However, there are still a few concerning pieces, namely a requirement for custodial parents to cooperate with the child support recovery unit or lose access to SNAP benefits.

There is not a way to implement this provision that does not result in taking food away from children.

Section 5 of the bill requires custodial parents to cooperate with child support recovery or lose access to SNAP benefits. By definition, custodial parents have children in the household under their care. When parents lose SNAP benefits for non-cooperation, it impacts the nutrition and food security of both parents and children by reducing the household’s overall food budget.

There is little evidence that this type of policy is successful in generating substantially more in child support payments to families. There would also be a significant cost to the state of Iowa to implement this provision, with no projected savings to the state.

Case study: North Carolina adopted a similar cooperation requirement for custodial parents on SNAP, and found it to be highly inefficient. It cost the state $2 million to implement, but only led to a total of about $7,000 in child support payments to 12 families over a year, or only about $50 a month.

A subcommittee meeting for HSB 698 has been scheduled for Monday, February 14, at 11:30am in Room 304.1. You can watch the subcommittee meeting online, but cannot testify on the bill remotely.

Please contact the members of the subcommittee for HSB 698 below and ask them to remove Section 5 (child support cooperation for custodial parents) from the bill.

Rep. Tom Jeneary, tom.jeneary@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Ann Meyer, ann.meyer@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Kristin Sunde, kristin.sunde@legis.iowa.gov

You can also submit a public comment for HSB 698 online, but we do recommend you also contact the subcommittee members above directly.

SNAP Emergency Allotments Expiring

Last Thursday, February 3, Governor Reynolds announced the Public Health Declaration will expire on Tuesday, February 15, at 11:59pm. As a result, the state of Iowa will no longer be able to access Emergency Allotments for SNAP through the USDA, which have been providing the maximum allowable benefit to SNAP households. This week, DHS confirmed that March will be the last month that Emergency Allotments will be issued.

Iowa SNAP recipients will see a big drop in their monthly benefit amounts in April. As shown in the graph from USDA below, the average monthly benefit will drop from $251 to $169 per person. This estimate is based on national data, and based on previous trends and data, Iowa’s average monthly benefit will likely be a bit smaller than $169. Some households will see a greater impact from this than others. For instance, a single individual receiving the minimum benefit will see their benefits drop from $250 to $20 per month.

Thank you for your continued advocacy.

Week 2 Legislative Update

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 iowahungercoalition@gmail.com.

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.

Rep. Tom Moore – tom.moore@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Liz Bennett – liz.bennett@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Eddie Andrews – eddie.andrews@legis.iowa.gov

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!

Rep. Michael Bergan – michael.bergan@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Liz Bennett – liz.bennett@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Steven Bradley – steven.bradley@legis.iowa.gov

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!

Rep. Anne Osmundson – anne.osmundson@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Steven Bradley – steven.bradley@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Kristin Sunde – kristin.sunde@legis.iowa.gov

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.

Rep. Cecil Dolecheck – cecil.dolecheck@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Marti Anderson – marti.anderson@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Dennis Bush – dennis.bush@legis.iowa.gov

2022 Iowa Legislative Session Starts Off with an Ugly Tone

This week, the Iowa Legislature gaveled in for the 2022 session. In his opening remarks, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver called public assistance programs a “lifestyle.” In Gov. Reynold’s Condition of the State address, she stated “the safety net has become a hammock” that is leading to societal decay.

Anti-hunger advocates, it’s clear we’re in for an ugly session. But before we get into the bad bills we’ve already seen proposed, let’s start on a positive note.

Iowa Hunger Coalition’s 2022 Legislative Agenda

A top item of our advocacy agenda this year is asking the legislature to support the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program with a $1 million appropriation to help low-income Iowans on SNAP afford fresh fruits and vegetables. The number one barrier identified by SNAP participants to eating more healthy food is prohibitive cost. And Double Up Food Bucks is a triple-win for Iowa: it supports families, farmers, and the local economy.


While we have a few positive opportunities ahead of us this session, we unfortunately once again will be defending the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from harmful changes.

On Tuesday, Rep. Ann Meyer introduced seven bills related to SNAP in the House Human Resources Committee. The language in these bills appears to be taken verbatim from SF389, which passed the Senate last year despite strong opposition from advocates.

Three of the bills are blatantly bad, and the Iowa Hunger Coalition is already registered against them. The other four could have the potential to improve the state’s verification system, but more needs to be known about about the cost and impact on people enrolled in SNAP. See below for more information on these bills.

So, what can you do?

  • First, you can contact your legislators (find them here) and let them know you support SNAP and the Double Up Food Bucks program.
  • Second, save the date for the Iowa Hunger Coalition’s online day of action on Wednesday, February 9. We’ll be holding a webinar at 9:00am and will provide multiple ways you can take action throughout the day, no matter where you are in the state. More details will be announced shortly.
  • Submit public comments and attend subcommittee meetings as you are able. We’ll be sure to let you know as those arise. See below for subcommittee assignments.
  • Finally, consider submitting a letter to the editor to your local paper. The disturbing rhetoric we have heard from our state’s leadership can’t go unanswered.

Thank you for your steadfast advocacy to end hunger and food insecurity in Iowa. We need you in this fight now more than ever.


Details on proposed SNAP bills this session

Seven bills pertaining to SNAP were introduced in the Iowa House on Tuesday, January 11, by Rep. Ann Meyer.

Perhaps the worst of the bunch is HSB 508, which would decrease access and kick people off SNAP by establishing an asset limit.

  • Households would face a limit of $2,500 in assets, or $3,750 in assets if at least one member of the household is age 60 or older, or is disabled. The value of a household’s primary residence and one vehicle would be excluded, as would retirement accounts.
  • Asset limits have been shown to discourage people who are eligible from applying for SNAP, increase administrative costs, and discourage people from saving for emergencies. Even children’s savings accounts would count toward the total asset limit for a household.
  • The median bank account amount is $150 for SNAP households (among those with an account).
  • Households with more than one vehicle would be at risk of losing eligibility for SNAP benefits. Having a vehicle can be the difference between finding employment or not, especially in rural areas of the state without public transit.

Another bad bill is HSB 505, which requires custodial parents to cooperate with the child support recovery unit or lose access to their SNAP benefits.

  • There is no evidence this type of policy generates significantly more child support payments to custodial households.
  • There is not a way to implement this provision that does not result in taking food away from children.
  • The National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA) opposed a measure in the 2018 Farm Bill that would require all states to implement cooperation requirements for SNAP.
  • A subcommittee meeting for HSB 505 is scheduled for next Tuesday, January 18, at 4:00pm in Room 304.1. Submit a public comment or contact the subcommittee members below to let them know you oppose this bill!

    Rep. Anne Osmundson, anne.osmundson@legis.iowa.gov
    Rep. Steven Bradley, steven.bradley@legis.iowa.gov
    Rep. Kristin Sunde, kristin.sunde@legis.iowa.gov

HSB 504 would require SNAP applicants to authenticate their identity with a computerized knowledge-based questionnaire.

  • This bill appears to go against federal USDA FNS guidelines for identity authentication systems, which states that “the use of an identity authentication process must be an option to applicants that they can choose to opt into or out of at any time during the application process without negative consequences.”
  • While this bill has the potential to increase access for some people, it also presents a significant access barrier to many people, especially those without internet access, limited credit history, or limited English proficiency.
  • 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.
  • A subcommittee meeting for HSB 504 already met on Thursday, January 13. Please email the subcommittee members below and ask them to change the language in HSB 504 to allow applicants to opt-out of the computerized process:

    Rep. Tom Moore, tom.moore@legis.iowa.gov
    Rep. Eddie Andrews, eddie.andrews@legis.iowa.gov
    Rep. Liz Bennett, liz.bennett@legis.iowa.gov

The other four bills could also be cause for concern. The Iowa Hunger Coalition is currently registered as “undecided” on these bills as we seek to learn more about their impact.

HSB 502 and HSB 507 both focus on implementing new verification and authentication systems for SNAP and other public assistance programs.

HSB 503 and HSB 515 focus on public assistance program fraud and case reviews, respectively.

  • It is not clear what problems these bills would actually address that aren’t already covered by existing Iowa law and DHS policy.

Sales Tax Exemption Webinar on December 15

During the 2021 legislative session, the Iowa Hunger Coalition and other anti-hunger groups successfully advocated for sales tax exemption for Iowa’s nonprofit food banks, pantries, and anti-hunger organizations. The sales tax exemption language was included in Senate File 619, which Gov. Reynolds signed into law on June 16, 2021.

Do you have questions about how your organization might claim exemption from the Iowa state sales tax?

Join the Iowa Hunger Coalition on Wednesday, December 15, at 1:00pm to learn how your anti-hunger organization could benefit from this policy change and tips on navigating the sales tax exemption form with your vendors.

Iowa Hunger Coalition Commends Increase to SNAP Benefits

The Iowa Hunger Coalition commends the USDA’s modernization of the Thrifty Food Plan announced last week. This will result in a 27% increase to the average Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit amount for 285,000 Iowans enrolled in the program, known in Iowa as Food Assistance. This will amount to an additional $116 million in annual SNAP benefits from the federal government for program participants in Iowa.

The increase will take effect on October 1, one day after a temporary 15% increase to SNAP benefits included in the 2021 American Rescue Plan expires on September 30.

“Over the last 17 months, our food pantry—like many across Iowa—has experienced a record number of visitors,” said John Boller, Executive Director of the Coralville Community Food Pantry and Iowa Hunger Coalition board member. “Though food pantries have served as a constant safety net for Iowans in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, we have not fought hunger alone. Safety net programs like SNAP, especially the Emergency Allotments made available throughout the course of the pandemic, have been crucial in ensuring food security throughout our state. I wholeheartedly welcome the new increase in SNAP benefits, which will put more food on the table for those who need and deserve it.”

Since April 2020, SNAP program participants in Iowa have been receiving the maximum possible benefit amounts due to Emergency Allotments being issued by the USDA. This has led to a 100% increase in the total amount of SNAP benefits issued in the state. Emergency allotments will continue to be issued until the state lifts the emergency health declaration.

“While the USDA’s announcement is great news for people enrolled in SNAP, there are still many Iowans struggling with hunger and food insecurity who do not qualify for the program,” said Natalie Veldhouse, Policy Advocate at Common Good Iowa and chair of the Iowa Hunger Coalition. “We have also yet to see the impending result of ending Emergency Allotments that is sure to have a large impact on Iowans facing hunger and the nonprofit organizations that assist them. The pandemic has affirmed that safety net programs like SNAP are very effective in meeting the economic and health needs of people experiencing poverty.”