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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — In a sign Iowa lawmakers may wrap up the 2022 session early, the health and human services budget has received subcommittee approval and is scheduled to be in full committee Monday.
“That’s a month earlier than last year. It could be the earliest it’s ever moved,” Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Joel Fry, R-Osceola, said Thursday.
That doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing for the bill, one of the largest budget pieces lawmakers deal with each year. The $6 billion-plus budget, which calls for $2.1 billion from the state general fund, was approved on a party-line vote.
The state’s share of the budget is $53.6 million more than current spending, a 2.6 percent increase, according to Legislative Services Agency. It’s also $39.5 million more than Gov. Kim Reynolds recommended.
It contains “incredible opportunities” for Iowans, Fry said in his introduction. His priorities are focused on rates as they relate to mental health and intellectual disabilities, and workforce shortage issues.
Unknowns in the budget include a forthcoming report from the federal Department of Justice investigation of alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and failure to provide appropriate settings at the Woodward and Glenwood resource centers.
Fry doesn’t expect to see the report before lawmakers adjourn. The resource centers are scheduled for increases of about $1.5 million and $1.2 million, respectively.
He also included language in the budget related to the proposed merger of the departments of Human Services and Public Health. The Public Health budget was reduced $800,000 to $55.3 million. The DHS budget was increased to $2 billion, which accounted for the full $53.6 million increase in the health and humans services.
Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, also had concerns about the realignment. He’s aware several states have combined those departments, however, he wants to make sure it’s done in a way that doesn’t diminish the effectiveness of Public Health.
“We want to make sure we have a strong public health department here … especially since we're still in (the) pandemic or endemic and we don't know what's coming down the road in the next few months,” he said.
Forbes and Fry also shared a concern about having adequate Medicaid funding when the federal government rescinds the COVID-19 public health emergency. They expect some Iowans receiving benefits will be dis-enrolled.
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