A senate committee will soon consider a plan to have Iowans on public assistance programs like Medicaid and food stamps to submit documents every three months to prove they’re still eligible. Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, is the bill’s sponsor.
“I am going to do whatever I can try to find savings for taxpayers if somebody’s defrauding them,” Schultz says. “I don’t think this will hurt anybody who is legitimately on the program.” Under the plan, a private company may be paid to process the information and cross check for identity theft or people claiming benefits in other states. Critics say Iowans who qualify for public assistance may unfairly lose their health care coverage or food stamps. Laura Hessburg of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence says welfare fraud isn’t a huge problem in Iowa.
“I don’t know why in an effort to save taxpayers’ money by finding five people who commit fraud we are going to kick off thousands from the benefits they need,” Hessburg said, “and for some people this will be a risk to their health and their life.” Tyler Raygor of Americans for Prosperity says 10 other states have passed similar legislation.
“Public assistance programs should be narrowly tailored to those who need them,” Raygor says, “and for those who don’t, we should be encouraging those folks to get back in the workforce.” The proposal is scheduled for debate in the Senate Labor Committee next week. Senator Schultz, who is chairman of that committee, has tabled a separate plan to require Iowa food stamp recipients to show some sort of photo I-D at the check-out counter.
“The rules are fenced in so tight,” Schultz says, “this is one of those deals that states don’t have any say on.” Schultz says he was trying to address misuse of the cards by people who are not eligible for the benefits.
“These are taxpayer dollars and I was looking for ways to safeguard them,” Schultz says. Schultz considered having the recipient’s photo on the “SNAP” benefit cards — which look like a credit card. According to the Iowa Child and Family Policy Center, food stamp benefits are issued to the head of household, but anyone in the home may use the card to buy food. Requiring a food stamp beneficiary to show a driver’s license or some form of photo I-D in order to use their card at a store is not allowed under federal regulations.