Welfare reform has been my leading project for the last two years. Last year Iowa Senate Republicans passed a collection of bills to address various issues from work requirements to electronic benefit card fraud. Taking lessons learned from last year’s debates, I developed the ideas and brought them back for discussion.
SF 2366 (passed 31 to 18 on 3/3/20) recognizes federal work requirements are attached to the SNAP food assistance program. Nobody seems to complain about them, so the bill applies those requirements to the Medicaid expansion group. The bill also forbids the Iowa Department of Human Services from seeking a waiver from the USDA to not enforce the current work requirements. The bill requires twenty hours a week of work, training, or volunteering in order to stay in the program. I included a list of exemptions that mirror the federal exemptions used in the SNAP program. This bill is directed at able-bodied individuals who simply should be working or participating in the community somehow.
Work is a fundamental part of who we are as people and a state. It gives us purpose, the means to support ourselves and families, and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. This bill is not punishment for using the system when times are tough, it is a nudge to get back in the race while continuing to be part of the Medicaid or SNAP programs. It’s been my experience that those who show up for work every day see their lives get better and opportunities present themselves. Iowa’s unemployment has been less than 3 percent for over two years and employers are begging for people to come work. There has never been a more appropriate time to get people off the programs and into self-reliance and a better life.
SF 2366 also includes language developed by the House to address the child care assistance cliff. One of the reasons some find it hard to go to work is the expense of child care during the day. This portion of the bill creates a sliding scale to help those who are working to move up the wage scale without losing the assistance benefit completely. As they make more, the program reduces assistance until hopefully the parent moves up in wages to the point that they move out of the program completely, which should be the goal of every program and recipient. The welfare cliff problem exists nationwide. It isn’t easy to fix, but the Iowa Legislature is trying to find a solution.
Twenty states are working to include work requirements with the support of President Trump. Unfortunately, those who do not want change or accountability in America’s welfare programs keep filing lawsuits to stop the progress of welfare reform. With the President’s re-election later this year, I’m confident we will make progress. Senate Republicans are proud to work alongside this administration.
I’m hopeful the Republican majority in the House of Representatives will give a serious look at either the work requirement bill or last week’s eligibility verification bill.