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Republicans Cut Atalissa Bunkhouse Program

John Pemble/IPR
Iowa State Capitol

A state program that was formed after the abuse of mentally disabled men housed in a bunkhouse in Atalissa would be eliminated under a Republican social services budget bill making its way through the legislature.  

 In 2009, the federal government sued a Texas company for paying the men as little as 65 dollars a month for working in a West Liberty processing plant, and lodging them in substandard conditions.      

Riverside Democrat Sally Stutsman says the state took steps to prevent similar abuse in the future.

”The public was outraged and wondered how something like this could happen in Iowa,” Stutsman says.   “Was no one advocating for these men? The answer was no.”

The Republican budget eliminates the state Office of Substitute Decision Maker which appoints advocates for mentally disabled adults.  

“A planned expansion would have created a statewide network of advocates,” Stutsman says, “and here we are together talking about eliminating the program altogether.”

The cut is part of millions of dollars in social service reductions Republicans say are necessary to balance the budget.   

On a party-line vote, the House agreed to cut the program to save a quarter of a million dollars. The move may not survive the Democratic-controlled Senate.