Tell our lawmakers not to take food away from Iowans!
What’s in House File 3?
House File 3, which targets SNAP, Medicaid, and other public assistance programs, was introduced the first week of the 2023 Iowa legislative session and is currently assigned to the Iowa House Health and Human Services Committee.
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:
- Banning soda and candy from SNAP purchases. Over 60% of SNAP participants report the affordability of healthy foods as a barrier to achieving a healthy diet throughout the month. This policy avoids the root causes of food insecurity—low wages and lack of access to affordable nutritious food, child care, housing, health care, transportation, and other basic household essentials.
Household food expenditures are not significantly different between SNAP and non-SNAP households. This is a punitive policy that would increase stigma for people enrolled in SNAP. Everyone deserves a treat now and again.
IHC supports a $1 million state appropriation for Double Up Food Bucks, which is included in the bill, but the funding is currently contingent upon USDA granting Iowa a waiver to restrict SNAP purchases of soda and candy. USDA has never granted this type of waiver and we believe it is highly unlikely to happen. Maine was denied a waiver to restrict soda and candy from SNAP both under the Obama administration in 2015 and under the Trump administration in 2018.
- 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 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.
What’s in Senate Study Bill 1105?
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.
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:
- Contact the members of the House Health and Human Services 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 to remove the asset test and candy and soda ban, or better yet, shelve the bill entirely.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the latest statistics on SNAP use in Iowa
More Details on House File 3
House File 3 is a bill targeting public assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), that is currently being considered in the Iowa Health and Human Services Committee. HF 3 would kick Iowans off SNAP, limit the ability of families on SNAP to make their own food choices, and increase hunger and food insecurity.
HF 3 would ban people from buying candy and soda with their SNAP benefits.
- This is a punitive policy that would increase stigma for people enrolled in SNAP. Everyone deserves a treat now and again.
- Over 60% of SNAP participants report the affordability of healthy foods as a barrier to achieving a healthy diet throughout the month. This policy avoids the root causes of food insecurity—low wages and lack of access to affordable nutritious food, child care, housing, health care, transportation, and other basic household essentials.
- A 2016 USDA study found that household food expenditures were not significantly different when comparing SNAP households and non-SNAP households. Sweetened beverages were 9.3% of SNAP households’ purchases and 7.1% of non-SNAP households’ purchases. Candy was 2.1% of food purchases for SNAP households and 2.2% of food purchases for non-SNAP households.
- The USDA has never granted a state a waiver to restrict food items from SNAP. Maine was denied a waiver to restrict soda and candy from SNAP both under the Obama administration in 2015 and under the Trump administration in 2018.
- This policy would increase administrative costs for the state and retailers alike, who would need to classify candy and soda in their inventory and update their point-of-sale systems to restrict the redemption of those products.
HF 3 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 $2,750 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. 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 $2,750, 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.
HF 3 also requires 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.
HF 3 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 would have the potential to increase access for SNAP applicants and would be in-line with USDA regulations.
HF 3 would prohibit the state from providing exemptions to the SNAP time limit for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs).
- USDA allows states to exempt up to 12% of Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) from the ABAWD time limit, which limits ABAWDs who are not working to receive only 3 months of SNAP benefits every 3 years.
- Iowa is not currently granting any exemptions, but should not prevent itself from doing so in the future if necessary based on individual circumstances of SNAP participants.
The additional administrative hurdles for SNAP in HF 3 will only increase costs for the state of Iowa.
- SNAP benefits are 100% federally funded. Furthermore, the number of Iowans enrolled in SNAP is currently at a 14-year low.
- The state has a 50-50 cost share with USDA on administrative costs for SNAP. The state’s administrative costs for SNAP have not meaningfully changed in 12 years.
- The fiscal note for HF 2438 last session (which did not include the asset test, Medicaid work requirements, or mandatory SNAP E&T) estimated that it would cost the state $14.2 million in the first two years to implement and add 43 FTEs to HHS’ staff, but the state would then see savings in the third year from removing an estimated 1% of participants from SNAP, Medicaid, and other public assistance programs. The majority of this savings was from Medicaid, and none was from SNAP.