Staff Editorial

Protect Iowans from poverty

A volunteer checks boxes of bread at the monthly mobile food pantry at Oelwein Community Plaza on Wednesday, March 13, 2
A volunteer checks boxes of bread at the monthly mobile food pantry at Oelwein Community Plaza on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Nearly one in eight Iowans lives in poverty. Despite Iowa’s low unemployment rate, many Iowans work at low-paying jobs without benefits. That means many Iowans, who aren’t in poverty, live one lost job, disaster or medical emergency away from not being able to make ends meet.

The financial instability of everyday Iowans is being made even more precarious this year by state lawmakers, who are failing to pass legislation to protect Iowans.

Republicans who control the Legislature failed to advance a bill that would prevent out-of-state investors from jacking up rents in manufactured housing lots. The bill was a bipartisan effort and would have protected Iowans who are living pay-check-to-pay-check from evictions.

Republicans also have failed to act on bills that would have protected Iowans from wage theft by employers. Each time, the argument against the legislation was that it would put too great a burden on the businesses. No mention of the burden on Iowans.

And bills lawmakers have passed will only work to increase the burden on Iowans who live in poverty.

A bill approved this week by the Senate would mandate people on Medicaid and food assistance to prove they are working 20 hours a week. Another bill would tighten the verification process for receiving assistance and use a third-party computer service to check identity, employment, residency status and income, and flag the Department of Human Services for any discrepancies. These bills are being passed based on the erroneous assumption that many people on assistance are somehow gaming the system. The reality is, according to national data, people aren’t receiving public assistance out of laziness or greed, but as a stopgap measure. Fifty-six percent of people on public assistance stopped participating within 36 months, while 43 percent lingered between three and four years. Nearly one-third quit receiving benefits within one year.

The reality of these bills is that they would kick people off assistance when they need it the most. In Iowa, 341,890 people are struggling with hunger and a third of them are children.

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For Iowans, the impact of each of these pieces of legislation is often the difference between eating or going to bed hungry, it’s the difference between homelessness or having a roof over your head.

Iowa lawmakers need to stop protecting businesses and start protecting Iowans.

(319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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