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DES MOINES — Legislation to make sure Iowans receiving public assistance are “the truly eligible” was approved by the House Human Resources Committee on Tuesday over Democratic concerns that the cost of the bill would be more than the savings.
“There’s a lot of good things in this bill,” Rep. Tom Jeneary, R-Le Mars, said in explaining that House Study Bill 698 would codify practices for authenticating identity and eligibility of applicants for public assistance programs.
If enacted, applicants would have to complete an authentication process to confirm their identity through the use of a knowledge-based questionnaire consisting of financial and personal questions tailored to assist people without a bank account or those who have poor access to financial and banking services or who do not have an established credit history.
In addition, HSB 698 would require the Department of Human Services to cross-check, at least monthly, information about Iowans enrolled in a food assistance program or Medicaid using federal databases including Social Security, the departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and the FBI. The eligibility of every member of a household would have to be verified using nationwide public records, including records of real property and automobiles, watercraft, aircraft, luxury vehicles and any other vehicles owned by the applicant. The bill would require anyone seeking food assistance to cooperate with the Child Support Recovery Unit.
Rep. Kristin Sunde, D-West Des Moines, questioned whether the investment would be worth it. Looking at the experiences of other states, the return on investment has been poor. Sunde also pointed out the committee doesn’t know how many DHS staff members will be needed and at what cost.
“I feel like it's more hoops to jump through,” Sunde said. “I'm just concerned that at a time when grocery costs are skyrocketing and we know that (food stamp) recipients are already having their benefits reduced, I just want to move forward with ultimate caution because, in the end, I don't want kids to be impacted adversely.”
The committee voted 13-8 to move the bill to the full House.
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