2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Work, child support required for SNAP benefits under Republican Iowa Senate bill

Bill shelved that set work requirements for Medicaid

The Iowa State House cupola on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The Iowa State House cupola on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Work requirements and other stipulations for some Iowans who receive help from food assistance programs and Medicaid services are being considered by Iowa lawmakers.

Myriad legislative proposals were presented this week at the Iowa Capitol, including a number during a flurry of subcommittee meetings on Thursday.

Many of the bills were introduced by Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, and written with the guidance of a pair of national conservative think tanks, the Opportunity Solutions Project and the Foundation for Government Accountability.

“I hear constantly from constituents who are frustrated,” Schultz told reporters after the meetings. “They feel that they’re going to work every day, paying taxes, these taxes are going to people who are not going to work and could.”

Schultz-led Senate panels on Thursday gave initial approval to one bill that would require any Iowan on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — often called SNAP or food stamps — be current on child support payments. Another bill aims to guide jobless food assistance recipients with school-aged children toward programs designed to connect them with a job.

Opponents of the child support bill expressed concerns with withholding food assistance for any low-income Iowan, even one who is behind on child support payments.

“Taking away food assistance would prevent them from meeting basic needs,” said Mary Nelle Trefz, with the Des Moines-based nonprofit Child and Family Policy Center. “And it may make it more challenging for that person to make their child support payments.”

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Schultz said he considered the proposal “a relatively minor ask of the taxpayer,” referring to the taxpayer funding that supports the food assistance program.

During discussion on the bill to set work requirements for food assistance recipients, Schultz said he is open to a program touted by the United Way that connects Iowans who receive food assistance to job training. Schultz approved the bill as written but said he is open to amending it to include language about the United Way program.

“If we can expand this program to every community college and nonprofit, we can specifically target the SNAP population to get the skills they need and better training to get the jobs they need,” said Dave Stone, with the United Way of Central Iowa.

A third bill, which would have required Iowans enrolled in the state’s version of Medicaid expansion to work or volunteer 20 hours per week, was shelved after Schultz said it could not yet be determined if it would apply to any Iowans. Because Iowa’s Medicaid expansion applied specifically to people with income between 100 percent and 133 percent of the federal poverty level, those people presumably have a job since they have income.

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