Guest Columnist

Iowa lawmakers target food assistance, but not corporate welfare

This photo shows a view of the Iowa Capitol Building, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neib
This photo shows a view of the Iowa Capitol Building, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

An Iowa Senate bill, Senate File 2366, that would modify the work requirements for Iowans receiving Medicaid and SNAP benefits, informally known as “food stamps.” There are about 304,500 people on SNAP in Iowa.

If we are trying to reduce government dependence, why is Iowa only looking to tighten the belt for our poorest residents when a majority of Iowa farms are dependent on government subsidies and federal insurance programs?

Republicans in the Iowa Senate only seem interested in targeting the poorest of Iowans receiving government benefits while ignoring the middle and upper class recipients of federal agriculture funding.

The classic campaign line of “if you can work you should work,” has been a winning message for Democrats and Republicans for decades. Medicaid and SNAP are both federal programs, meaning that the federal government sets the baseline rules that state can choose to add on to. Adding to the existing work requirements for poor Iowans receiving welfare would, hopefully, lead people to financial independence from the government. Our state has an ongoing worker shortage, a bill like this could push people into the workforce.

Iowa has more than 86,000 farms with most receiving government aid. Bad business years on farms are sometimes the fault of the farmer and sometimes the fault of nature. This is not that different from the market volatility of a real estate agent or a restaurant owner. Yet, there are insurance programs and subsidy deals worked out for particular crops by influential members of Congress.

The Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Federal Crop Insurance are all federal programs that farmers take advantage of in times of need. In order to make these farm welfare recipients more sustainable and independent, like traditional welfare recipients, where is their risk reduction and management bill?

Farm aid from the government reached an all time high in 2019 with $22.4 billion, over half of that amount coming from trade related compensation while the recipients of SNAP benefits received nearly triple that amount with $60 billion in benefits.

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When agricultural trade is negatively impacted by a trade war, taxpayer funded reimbursement seems responsible and reasonable. When there is no disproportionate impact to farming business by the actions of the government, the farming industry should be treated like any other firm, allowed to succeed and fail based on their management.

Several other states have also taken legislative steps to strengthen their work requirements for able-bodied recipients. In the case of Medicaid, in order to add work requirements, the Department of Health and Human Services would have to agree that the state’s proposed work requirements are “likely to assist in promoting the objectives of the program.

This Iowa bill requires Medicaid recipients to volunteer, work, or participate in a type of work program for 20 hours a week. The bill would also prevent DHS from granting convenience waivers for federal work requirements while expanding eligibility for Child Care Assistance and codifying the CCA’s phase out program.

The Iowa Senate Bill requirements are not too different when compared to standards set by other states and seem more reasonable when considering the worker shortage and veto power of the federal HHS agency. The Iowa legislature wants to pass bills to make our state run more efficiently and cultivate business success. Politicians who believe adults receiving Medicaid and SNAP should work without a exception should also reflect on taxpayer funded programs for Iowa’s farmers.

Patricia Patnode is a resident of Waterloo, the Outreach Director for LoneConservative.com and a contributor for Young Voices. She can be found on Twitter @IdealPatricia

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