Legislative Day: Should Public Assistance Programs Have Stricter Requirements?

Iowa lawmakers are considering three bills that would change eligibility requirements for public assistance programs like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. 

Jack Reardon, who grew up in Des Moines in a single parent household says that there isn't a need to increase oversight for the program, but that there is a need to expand programs like SNAP. 

"If I didn't receive these benefits, I would go to bed hungry," he says. "For a family of four, we receive enough money per month to take one trip to the grocery store." 

During this hour of River to River, Clay Masters and Katarina Sostaric talk with Reardon and discuss the bills that are moving through the Senate with Senator Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) and Senator Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque), alongside Drew Klein from Americans for Prosperity and Anne Discher from the Child and Family Policy Center. 

Senator Schultz, who is sponsoring the bills, says that his goal is not to take benefits away from Iowans but to make sure the people using the benefits qualify for them. 

"From what we've seen, we have just under 170,000 Iowans in that Medicaid expansion population, the Iowa Health and Wellness plan, and it looks to me like 45 percent are reporting earnings," he says. "We need to dig down. Are these people who are not working, or are these the people that have exemptions protecting them?" 

Supporters of these changes have not provided evidence of widespread fraud in Iowa's Medicaid system or SNAP program.

The state's Medicaid program will serve 24.9 percent of Iowans by the state's fiscal year 2020 according to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, and the SNAP program serves just over 356,000 Iowans.