DES MOINES, IOWA — Just over a dozen Iowans gathered in the rotunda of the Iowa State Capitol building to ask Governor Kim Reynolds to veto a bill that would add hurdles when applying for public assistance.
The bill has already passed through the Iowa Senate and House. It creates an asset and income test for those attempting to apply for SNAP and Medicaid benefits. Iowans could not have more than $15,000 in liquid assets and not be above 160% of the federal poverty line, or $48,000 for a family of four.
“Well it kind of irritates me and ticks me off,” said Kenneth Peterson, a disabled Navy veteran who is currently on public assistance, and fears getting kicked off. “Right now I am living off of the generosity of others by going to different churches that have food pantries.”
Those who run food pantries expect usage to go up once this legislation is signed, which will create issues.
“While we have food pantries and food banks breaking records across the state, because it is not just DMARC,” said Luke Elzinga, the policy & advocacy manager for DMARC. “I talk with other food banks and other pantries across the state. Everyone is seeing it.”
Elzinga said last August there was an 86% increase in usage year-to-year, and that March 2023 was the busiest March DMARC has ever had.
Republicans want to pass this legislation to get people back into the workforce and crack down on fraud in the benefits program. But some think that the level of fraud is so small, there won’t be a difference with this bill.
“The question around fraud is not one we should be asking, even though we are looking at .07% of the fraud rate that they were communicating in subcommittee,” said EJ Wallace, a campaign advisor with Save the Children Action Network. “We are talking thousands of children that are going to be kicked off public assistance programs.”
The Legislative Service Agency estimates that around 1% of Iowans who are on public assistance programs will be removed by the beginning of FY 2026. That is roughly 8,000 Medicaid recipients and 2,800 SNAP recipients.