Action Alert: SSB 1105

Update: the February 2nd subcommittee meeting for SSB 1105 was postponed.

Yesterday saw the introduction of Senate Study Bill 1105, which targets SNAP and other public assistance programs. A subcommittee meeting for this bill has already been scheduled for Thursday, February 2, at 10:00am.

Please contact the members of the subcommittee for SSB 1105 today and tell them you do not support this harmful bill!

Sen. Jeff Edlerjeff.edler@legis.iowa.gov
Sen. Mark Costellomark.costello@legis.iowa.gov
Sen. Sarah Trone Garriottsarah.trone.garriott@legis.iowa.gov

One note on the subcommittee meeting tomorrow: you can testify remotely in the Senate via Zoom!


SSB 1105 is similar to House File 3, but is not identical. Some key differences:

  • SSB 1105 does not restrict the purchase of soda and candy from SNAP, nor does it include a $1 million appropriation for the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program.
  • SSB 1105 does not contain the sections on work requirements for the Medicaid expansion population or banning the use of pre-populated forms for Medicaid.

Unfortunately, SSB 1105 does include some very harmful provisions that are also in HF 3, including:

  • Establishing an asset limit of $2,750 for SNAP households, or $4,250 if there is at least one member of the household with a disability or age 60+. Families with more than one vehicle would especially be at risk of losing access to SNAP.
  • Requiring custodial parents to cooperate with the child support recovery unit in order to be eligible for SNAP. By definition, these are households with children. There is not a way to implement this policy without taking food away from children.
  • Requiring all public assistance program applicants to complete a computerized questionnaire to prove their identity and creating additional eligibility verification processes.

Please contact the members of the subcommittee for SSB 1105 today and tell them to put a stop to this harmful bill!

Keep up the great work, advocates!

Week 3: Next Steps to Stop HF 3

The subcommittee meeting for House File 3 was held yesterday, and the room was absolutely packed full of advocates speaking out against HF 3. People are fired up about this bill and legislators and the media took notice. Thank you to everyone who spoke out against HF 3 and helped to raise awareness about this bad bill!

While the outcome was not what we hoped, it was what we expected. The bill advanced out of the subcommittee on a 2-1 party line vote, but members of the subcommittee said they will be making changes to the bill before it comes before the full House Health and Human Services Committee. So, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

But first, let’s celebrate a win! The WIC-approved food list is out. Iowans spoke loud and clear that they did not want our legislators limiting the food options for low-income Iowans. But, while the WIC list is out, there is going to be an amendment to ban soda and candy from SNAP purchases.

The coming days and weeks are going to be critical in stopping HF 3. Please contact the members of the House Health and Human Services Committee (listed below) and ask them to:

  • Scrap the asset test. This is one of the most harmful pieces of the bill and would especially put Iowans with more than one vehicle at risk of losing access to SNAP benefits. Iowans well below the asset limit would also be at risk of losing their benefits due to the additional administrative hoops Iowans would have to jump through.
  • Provide a clean $1 million appropriation for the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program. Currently this funding is contingent upon the USDA granting Iowa a waiver to restrict soda and candy from SNAP, something we believe is highly unlikely to happen. The state should instead provide a clean $1 million for DUFB that is not tied to any other piece of HF 3.
  • Better yet, kill the bill entirely! There are a lot of other bad pieces of HF 3, including work requirements for the Medicaid expansion population, requiring custodial parents to cooperate with the child support recovery unit to receive SNAP, a computerized identity authentication process, and other administrative hurdles for Iowans accessing public assistance programs.

Visit iowahungercoalition.org/protect-snap for more info on HF 3.

Iowa House Health and Human Services Committee Members

Rep. Ann Meyer – ann.meyer@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Tom Jeneary – tom.jeneary@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Devon Wood – devon.wood@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell – beth.wessel-kroeschell@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Eddie Andrews – eddie.andrews@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Austin Baeth – austin.baeth@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Michael Bergan – michael.bergan@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Brian Best – brian.best@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Brooke Boden – brooke.boden@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Steven Bradley – steven.bradley@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Timi Brown-Powers – timi.brown-powers@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. John Forbes – john.forbes@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Joel Fry – joel.fry@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Barb Kniff McCulla – barb.kniffmcculla@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Brian Lohse – brian.lohse@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Shannon Lundgren – shannon.lundgren@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Mary Madison – mary.madison@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Heather Matson – heather.matson@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Thomas Moore – tom.moore@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Josh Turek – josh.turek@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Hans Wilz – hans.wilz@legis.iowa.gov

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad SNAP Bill

It’s the end of the first week of the 2023 Iowa legislative session, and the news is, well, not good. As you may have guessed from the title of this post, we saw a bill introduced this week targeting SNAP, House File 3.

This bill would restrict SNAP participants’ ability to make their own food choices, take food away from Iowans, and increase hunger and food insecurity in our state. The harmful proposals in the bill include:

  • Restricting SNAP purchases to only foods on the WIC-approved food item list. This would severely limit the foods people could purchase with their SNAP benefits. SNAP recipients could no longer purchase meat, other than certain varieties of canned tuna and salmon. Meat, Poultry, and Seafood is the #1 food category purchased by SNAP participants nationwide, amounting to 1 in every 5 dollars of SNAP benefits spent.

    Other foods that would be restricted from SNAP purchases make up a lengthy list including frozen prepared foods, butter, flour, cooking oil, herbs, spices, coffee and tea, cottage cheese, snack foods, nuts and seeds, white rice, rice noodles, jam, canned fruits and vegetables, soup, condiments, white bread, meal kits, bottled water, sliced cheese, crackers, and on and on. It’s much easier to list what you still would be able to purchase with SNAP than to list all the items you could not.

  • Establishing an asset limit for SNAP. Households would face a limit of $2,750 in assets, or $4,250 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. Even children’s savings accounts would count toward the asset limit for the household.

    Households with more than one vehicle would be especially at risk of being kicked off SNAP. Having a vehicle can be the difference between finding employment or not, especially in rural areas of the state without public transit. Asset limits also discourage people from saving for emergencies. This policy would keep Iowans stuck in poverty, not help them out.
  • Performing monthly and quarterly eligibility verification checks for SNAP and Medicaid. Such frequent eligibility checks have the potential to make program participants jump through additional hoops and remove people from benefits for which they are eligible, especially when paired with an asset test for SNAP.
  • Requiring participation in the SNAP Employment & Training program to be eligible for SNAP. The bill prohibits the state from exempting people from the SNAP Employment & Training program, which we still have many questions about. But we believe that SNAP E&T should be a voluntary program, not a mandatory program required for SNAP eligibility.
  • Requiring 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. Furthermore, there is no evidence this type of policy generates significantly more child support payments to custodial households.

Learn more about on this bad bill.

How can you help?


Real stories from real Iowans can stop HF 3, but legislators need to hear loud and clear that we will not stand for this attack on SNAP and the rely on it. You can help stop this bad bill by taking action:

Questions?

Contact us at iowahungercoalition@gmail.com.

IHC January 2023 Monthly Meetup

Join the Iowa Hunger Coalition for our next monthly meetup!

Wednesday, January 18, 10:00-11:00am

We’ll provide a refresher on the legislative process in Iowa and walk through some tips and tricks for navigating the legislature’s website to stay updated and engaged on legislative action, lobbyist declarations, and more!

New USDA Data Out on SNAP Household Characteristics During the Early Pandemic

New data from the USDA shows that 40% of SNAP recipients in Iowa are children, the number of SNAP participants in Iowa is at a 14-year low, and three out of four SNAP households live below the federal poverty line. The report also finds there was an increase in single adults without dependents enrolling in SNAP during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Characteristics of SNAP Households: FY 2020 and Early Months of the COVID-19 Pandemic examines data for fiscal year 2020, both for the period of October 2019-February 2020 (Pre-Pandemic), as well the early pandemic period of June-September 2020 (Waiver Period). Data for March-May were not reported.

The new data shines a light on the changes seen in who was enrolled in SNAP prior to and during the early summer months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to this latest set of data, during the pandemic months of June-September 2020:

  • Six in ten SNAP participants in Iowa were children (40%), working-age adults with disabilities (11%), or seniors (10%).
  • There were less people enrolled in SNAP in Iowa in FY2020, both prior to and during the pandemic, than there were enrolled in FY2019. In fact, the number of Iowans participating in SNAP is currently at a 14-year low.
  • 75% of SNAP households in Iowa had gross monthly income less than or equal to the federal poverty line. The average household income was 68% of the federal poverty line – $9,241 for a single adult or $18,870 for a family of four.
  • The share of SNAP households in Iowa reporting earned income fell in FY2020, and the share of SNAP households reporting zero income increased.
  • Iowa saw an increase in the number of Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) using SNAP during the pandemic. The three-month time limit that usually applies to ABAWDs has been temporarily on hold since March 2020, and will end when the national emergency declaration is lifted.
  • Similarly, the average SNAP household size in Iowa decreased during the pandemic due to an increase in childless adults entering the program. At the national level, more than half of all SNAP households consisted of a single person in FY2020.
  • You download the full USDA report at the link below.

IHC December 2022 Monthly Meetup

Update: a video recording of the December 2022 IHC monthly meetup is available below.

Join the Iowa Hunger Coalition for our first of many monthly meetups! Connect virtually with anti-hunger advocates from across the state and get the latest news and updates from IHC.

Wednesday, December 21, 10:00-11:00am

In December, we’ll be unveiling IHC’s legislative agenda for the upcoming 2023 state legislative session and hearing from the School Nutrition Association of Iowa on an advocacy effort to pass healthy school meals for all in Iowa! We’ll also have time for people to share updates from around the state.

Iowans have missed out on $141 million in SNAP benefits since April

As food banks and food pantries break records across the state, Iowans have collectively missed out on an estimated $141 million in benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the months from April through August 2022.

This translates to an estimated loss of $217 million in gross domestic product (GDP) for the state of Iowa. According to the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), every $1 in SNAP benefits issued results in $1.54 in estimated economic impact.

Explore data at the county level and by congressional district

In April 2022, SNAP participants in Iowa lost access to additional SNAP benefits due to the governor’s decision to lift the Public Health Disaster Emergency Proclamation earlier this year. Total SNAP benefits in Iowa decreased by 43% from March to April. On average, households have been receiving $200 less in benefits every month. The average SNAP benefit per meal for individuals in Iowa was $1.56 in August 2022. In October 2022, annual cost of living adjustments for SNAP increased the average benefit amount by 12.5%.

“If the SNAP Emergency Allotments were still in place today, I’d be receiving $281 a month for groceries. In actuality, I’m getting $23,” said Tara Kramer of Des Moines. “ Navigating my new normal on a fixed income involves me planning trips to food pantries multiple times a week. I’m nervous about unexpected expenses; having to choose between paying for a medical service or buying food. I’m so tired. I’m not sleeping enough, I don’t wake up feeling refreshed anymore.”

“We have a 3 year old and a 1 year old at home, and with the recent reduction in SNAP benefits, we’re having to make hard choices about what we can afford, and stress a lot more about making sure nothing gets wasted,” said Cecelia Proffit of Iowa City. “We try not to pass that stress and anxiety on to our kids, but the unnecessary reduction in benefits takes a toll on us not just nutritionally, but mentally and emotionally as well. Money is tight, especially with prices going up for everything and no commensurate pay increases. It was nice to not have to worry so much about how we’d feed our kids. Now that’s been added back to our pile of things to worry about.”

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) allowed states to issue the maximum allowable benefit to all SNAP participants through Emergency Allotments. In order to distribute Emergency Allotments, states are required to have a public health emergency in place. Iowa is one of 17 states that have ended Emergency Allotments for SNAP.

“Hunger is a policy choice, and I can’t think of a more clear example that illustrates this,” said Luke Elzinga, chair of the Iowa Hunger Coalition. “Not only has the loss in SNAP benefits harmed the physical and mental health of people experiencing hunger and food insecurity, it has put a tremendous strain on anti-hunger organizations who are breaking records to make sure Iowans stay fed.”

Food banks and food pantries across the state of Iowa are facing historic numbers of people seeking assistance. Organizations attribute some of the increased traffic to rising food costs, but clearly note the significant effect the loss in SNAP benefits is having.

“More of our neighbors than ever before are turning to us for support,” said John Boller, Executive Director of the Coralville Community Food Pantry. “Since April 1, we have seen an overall increase of 55% compared to the same period in 2021. Inversely, we have experienced a decrease in our food supply: food donations are down and we still face limited availability of universally needed staples like meat, eggs, rice, peanut butter, and canned fruit. Our shelves and coolers are literally bare by the end of each pantry shift.”

“Unfortunately we have seen the increase that we predicted was coming our way,” said Andrea Cook, Program Director at Johnston Partnership Place. “Higher food costs, high gas prices, and the governor’s end to the emergency declaration have given rise to increased traffic at food pantries. We are seeing faces we haven’t seen in six years or more, not to mention the increase in families who have never needed this type of help before.”

“With limited inventory at the food bank, high costs for our food purchases, continued supply chain shortages, reduced community donations, and the increased client need, it is a constant struggle to keep our shelves stocked,” said Nicole McAlexander, Executive Director of the Southeast Linn Community Center. “We have a generous community, dedicated staff and wonderful volunteers, but without government support or systemic changes, this trajectory is unsustainable. We can prevent hunger in Iowa, but it cannot happen through food pantries and community generosity alone.”

278,514 Iowans participate in SNAP as of August 2022, the lowest SNAP enrollment has been in nearly 14 years. According to the USDA, 63% of Iowans enrolled in SNAP in 2018 were children, seniors, and disabled adults. While states cost-share with the federal government on the administration of the SNAP program, SNAP benefits themselves are fully funded by the federal government.

“While the actual case counts of COVID had decreased by April, we saw counts rise again throughout the summer,” said Elzinga. “And regardless of the case counts, the impacts from COVID are still being felt – and felt the hardest by lower-income members of our communities.”

Download the Data

PDF XLSX CSV  
 
Loss in SNAP benefits were calculated by finding the difference between the estimated total benefits that would have been issued under Emergency Allotments (based on average benefit amounts for the three months prior to April 2022) and actual benefit amounts distributed. Estimated economic impact was calculated by multiplying the estimated loss in benefits by the SNAP economic multiplier effect of 1.54, per USDA ERS.

Engaging with Candidates 101 Webinar on September 14

Update – Video Recording and Slides

A video recording of this webinar is available on YouTube and is embedded below.

You can also access the slides from the presentation here (PDF).


Join the Iowa Hunger Coalition on Wednesday, September 14, at 10:00am for an educational webinar on how to engage with candidates for elected office!

Learn the do’s and don’ts of how nonprofit organizations can engage with candidates, how to find out who is running in your district, and get some advice on scheduling and planning your meetings with candidates.


P.S. – You’ll also get a special first look at IHC’s state legislative agenda for 2023 at the event!

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.”