Iowa GOP wants to limit SNAP benefits: Here’s what to know

IOwa Republican House wording house file 3 This month — a bill proposes severe limits on the food items SNAP recipients can use their benefits to buy — including white bread, fresh meats, and sliced ​​cheese. Many believe the new bill will place undue financial pressure on the most vulnerable communities in Iowa.

The bill, co-sponsored by 39 Republicans, would require SNAP recipients to have a more restricted list of food items they can buy that would reflect foods approved for the state’s current Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. It will also require an asset limit on SNAP participants and Medicare recipients will need to work at least 20 hours a week to receive benefits.

House File 3 is receiving significant opposition from state Democrats and hunger advocacy groups who argue the bill will negatively impact those struggling to keep up with the rising cost of food and still suffering from inflation and job losses due to the pandemic.

“He told lawmakers in Iowa, we have record-breaking food banks and food pantries in terms of the number of people turning to them for help,” Luke Elzinga, president of the Iowa Hunger Coalition, a nonprofit advocating for a fair food policy, tells TIME. “At the same time, the number of Iowans who are SNAP-enrolled has fallen to its lowest level in 14 years.”

“This tells me the state needs to do more to make sure SNAP is available to people facing food insecurity, and House File 3 seems to be going in the opposite direction,” he adds.

Restrictions in the house file 3

popor the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is the largest federal program that helps low-income Americans pay for food through set monthly budgets that they can redeem at grocery stores.

The suggested restricted food list is reproduced in the House 3 file from WIC, which was created to aid Maternal and Early Childhood Health. Some experts argue so The WIC diet It is not suitable for everyone registered with SNAP due to the wide range of demographics.

“If you’re pregnant, nursing, postpartum, an infant or child under five, you have very specific nutritional needs,” Lauren O., a professor of nutrition at the University of California, Davis who researches nutrition policy, told TIME.

Au adds that SNAP provides “such a small amount of funding for food.” As a supplemental food aid, it is not designed to be the only source of food for a household, so it should not be treated as such by policy.

With WIC restrictions, Iowan SNAP recipients will not be able to buy things like whole grains, fresh meats, spices, oil, canned fruits or vegetables, and other kitchen staples.

“If you’re living in poverty and using a program — and there’s already a lot of stigma around SNAP — then being told, ‘We’re going to censor the food you can get,’ is incredibly harmful to people’s mental health,” Elzinga says.

He says the restrictions don’t take into account food allergies, medical conditions that require a specific diet, religious restrictions, or cultural preferences. “I know a woman with an eating disorder who is on SNAP,” says Elzinga. He adds how stimulating restricted eating is for some people.

You can have 100% whole wheat pasta, but you can’t have rice noodles. “There is brown rice, but there is no white rice,” says Elzinga.

Asset restrictions in House File 3 could mean that families with between $2,750 and $4,250 in assets or savings no longer qualify for any benefits, which critics say discourages people from increasing their savings. It will particularly affect families who own more than one car, which is common in rural areas with poor public transportation, and in large families.

Au says that comparing the ability to obtain food compared to the assets a person has does not consider that “there are a lot of stories that you may not know.”

On the flip side, the bill allocates $1 million to the state’s Double Up Food Bucks program, which incentivizes SNAP recipients to get more fruits and vegetables. The Elzinga Coalition supports this funding, but wants it in a separate bill without the WIC and asset restrictions.

Legislative logic

Sammy Sheetz, the freshman Democratic representative for Iowa’s 78th district, is an outspoken opponent of House File 3, or as he calls it, “a really terrible bill.”

“Iowans have been struggling for years. First, the pandemic devastated our economy, and to this day we still have record high inflation not seen in 40 years driving up the cost of basic things like food and gas.” “To make it more difficult and more restrictive for people to get the basic things they need for themselves and their families to survive… that’s wrong.”

According to House Republicans, the proposal — which is currently being debated in subcommittees — will help keep costs down. “It’s these entitlement programs. They’re the people who are growing within the budget and pressuring us so we can fund other priorities,” said House Speaker Pat Grassley. KCCIa news outlet in Des Moines.

In September, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds proudly announced that the state had a budget surplus $1.91 billion– a far cry from Grassley’s troubling rhetoric.

Sheetz responds by saying that the federal government, not the state of Iowa, pays 100% of SNAP’s food assistance costs. The federal and state governments split the administrative costs of SNAP 50/50, so all the administrative work that would be required to implement the law would theoretically increase costs in Iowa, according to Elzinga.

The administrative costs of SNAP in Iowa have been fairly consistent for more than a decade, which is another reason it’s unusual for the program to target costs. In 2009, Iowa spent $24,690,105 — compared to 2020 when the state spent $22,355,466 — according to data from the Iowa Hunger Coalition.

“Not only is this wrong on a philosophical and moral level, but it’s bad for Iowa agriculture today,” Sheetz says. Iowa is one of the leading states in the country in terms of agricultural production. First ranking Place in the sale of corn, soybeans and pork.

Of the 55 major pressure groups in Iowa, 22 are publicly against the bill including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Save the Children Action Network and Tyson Foods. There are 31 undecided groups and only two groups that support the bill.

House File 3 in the future

Over the years, federal and other states policymakers have floated similar ideas to restrict certain foods from SNAP benefits, but the legislation rarely gets passed because Research It is shown to tend to harm SNAP recipients financially and health wise.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees SNAP and must approve all changes. Elzinga explains that the USDA is strict when it comes to SNAP, as it was in both 2015 and 2018 when Who’s attempts? Soda and candy have been banned from the SNAP menu. He predicted that the department would most likely not approve House 3’s file even if he walked out of the General Assembly Hall.

“I think the message this bill sends to lower-income Iowans is that the state doesn’t trust you to make your own food choices for your family,” says Elzinga. “It reinforces a false narrative that the poor in public assistance programs are cheating the government, which is not the reality.”

Correction, 21 Jan

The original version of this story misquoted Sammy Sheetz about how long it had been since Iowa had such high inflation. It’s 40 years old, not 14 years old.

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