Iowa House Sends Governor Bill Requiring More Frequent Verifications for Welfare Eligibility

(Radio Iowa) A bill to require more screening for Iowans receiving government food and health care assistance is headed to the governor for her signature. A household with more than 15-thousand dollars worth of assets that could be quickly sold or turned into cash would be ineligible for food stamps. Iowans receiving food stamps AND those enrolled in Medicaid would have to more frequently show their income is low enough to qualify for the programs. Representative Joel Fry, a Republican from Osceola, says the bill strikes a balance for taxpayers and those who are eligible for benefits.

“House Republicans believe that maintaining the safety net is critical for all Iowans, those who receive as well as those who give,” Fry said. Democrats cite a non-partisan report suggesting errors will deny government assistance to Iowa adults and kids who are eligible. Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, says the fraud rate for food stamps is virtually non-existent.

“The rate is 0.07%. Our laws should be based on reality, on the state of things as they actually exist,” she said. “This bill makes it so more kids will go to school hungry.” Representative Josh Turek. a Democrat from Council Bluffs, says including vehicles in an asset test makes no sense, since Iowans — particularly those who live in rural areas — need reliable vehicles to get to work, school or the doctor.

“In my opinion, this bill is a disgrace,” he said. “It’s morally reprehensible. The bill takes away food from veterans, the elderly, poor children and disabled individuals.” Fry is the Republican who guided the bill through nearly four hours of debate.

“It protects the program for those who need it most and I would suggest to you that we are creating a safety net today that is sustainable for the long term,” Fry said. “Without creating that safety net, the benefits won’t be in existence in my children’s lifetimes.” The Senate approved the bill three weeks ago on a party line vote. It passed the House last (Thursday) night with the support of 58 Republicans. Five other Republicans and all 36 Democrats in the House voted no.