Tell our lawmakers not to take food away from Iowans!
A suite of bills targeting public assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is currently being considered in the Iowa House Human Resources Committee. Get the latest statistics on SNAP use in Iowa.
These bills would take food away from Iowans and increase hunger and food insecurity in our state. The harmful proposals include:
- Establishing an asset limit for SNAP. 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. 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.
- 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.
- Contracting with a third-party vendor to implement a real-time eligibility verification system for public assistance programs. Real-time 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.
How can you help?
Real stories from real Iowans can stop these bills, but legislators need to hear loud and clear that we will not stand for this attack on Iowa’s public assistance programs and the people who use them. You can help stop these bills by taking action:
- Contact members of the House Human Resources Committee. Let them know you do not support the efforts to make it more difficult to access SNAP and other public assistance programs in Iowa and ask them not to advance the bills out of committee.
- Register to attend the Iowa Hunger Coalition’s online day of action on Wednesday, February 9.
At 9:00am, we’ll be launching our day of action with an hour-long webinar to provide the latest update on what’s happening with these bills and how you can help stop them. Then, we’ll have a list of actions you can take throughout the day, no matter where you are in the state. Register to attend.
- Help raise awareness. Tell your friends and family about the attacks on SNAP and encourage them to take action as well. Share about what’s happening in the legislature on social media. Write a letter to the editor and submit it to your local paper. See below for resources you can share.
- Share your story with us. Would you or someone you know be personally affected by these proposed policy changes? We want to hear from you. Fill out a short form to share your story with us.
Contact us at email@example.com.
More Details on these Bad Bills
HSB 508 is the most harmful bill, and would kick people off SNAP by establishing an asset limit in Iowa that would be among the most restrictive in the nation.
- 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. For each additional vehicle, the fair market value exceeding $4,650 would be counted toward the asset limit. Vehicles used for income-producing purposes, such as taxis and tractors, would be excluded, but not vehicles that are used for a daily commute to work.
- Households with more than one vehicle would be especially 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.
- Iowa is currently one of 36 states that does not have an asset limit for SNAP. Nine states use the federal asset limit of $2,500, and five other states have an asset limit that is greater than the federal limit. For example, Nebraska has an asset limit of $25,000 that is strictly for liquid assets and excludes all vehicles.
- Most states have moved away from asset limits for SNAP, and with good reason. 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 asset limit for a household.
- Case study: Pennsylvania established an asset limit for SNAP in 2012, only to reverse course three years later. Ending the asset test in 2015 resulted in a $3.5 million annual savings to the state by removing administrative burden. During the first year the test was established in 2012, nearly 4,000 households lost or were denied benefits due to their financial resources. At that same time, some 110,000 households were denied benefits simply because they failed to provide proper documentation.
HSB 505 is another harmful bill, and would require custodial parents to cooperate with the child support recovery unit in order to be eligible for SNAP.
- 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.
HSB 504 would require public assistance program applicants to complete a computerized identity authentication questionnaire to receive benefits.
- While this may have 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 go against USDA regulations for SNAP. Were this new computerized identity authentication process an option, not a requirement, it could have the potential to increase access for SNAP applicants and would be in-line with USDA regulations.
- DHS is actively improving its IT systems for public assistance programs. Since Iowa was issued a $1.8 million fine by USDA for its SNAP payment error rate of 10.02% in FY 2018, the payment error rate has fallen to 6.58% in FY 2021, just shy of the national average.
- The real-time system would likely create more work for DHS Income Maintenance Workers (IMWs), not less, as employees would have to follow up with each flag in the system as it arose rather than doing periodic eligibility checks every 3-12 months.
- Real-time eligibility checks have the potential to make program participants jump through additional hoops and remove people from benefits for which they are eligible.