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Plan to Recheck IA Public-Assistance Eligibility Raises Concerns

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Critics of enhanced online eligibility verification for public-assistance programs say it could deter people in Iowa from applying, even if they qualify. (Adobe Stock)
Critics of enhanced online eligibility verification for public-assistance programs say it could deter people in Iowa from applying, even if they qualify. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen - Producer, Contact
May 5, 2021

DES MOINES, Iowa - A proposal in the Iowa Legislature to recheck people's eligibility for public-assistance programs is getting some pushback.

The state would hire a third-party vendor for frequent status checks on anyone receiving food assistance, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

As families recover from the pandemic, said Stacy Frelund, Iowa government relations director for the American Heart Association, now isn't the time to add another barrier. She said she worries about people who could lose access to regular health checks through Medicaid.

"There's a lot of counseling, when it comes to weight management and those kinds of things, that people have depended on for years," she said, "and those kinds of things give them a better quality of life."

She added that removing more people from SNAP would especially limit children from eating healthier. The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimated that the changes would impact nearly 6,000 Medicaid enrollees and nearly 1,500 SNAP recipients. Backers of the plan say it would mean more help is available for those who need it.

Frelund said groups that fight hunger in Iowa fear the impact on food assistance would run much deeper. She said she also fears people who need the assistance might fall through the cracks, especially if they have to list their assets through an online verification system.

"Iowa's very rural," she said, "and not everybody has the same kind of access to really strong internet or broadband."

The LSA analysis found that to implement the system would mean more than $4 million in administrative costs for the state. Frelund said she sees it as a waste of taxpayer dollars and an overlap of federal verification efforts. The Senate proposal stalled in the House earlier this session, but has been tucked into a larger bill in the upper chamber.

Disclosure: American Heart Association of Iowa contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Smoking Prevention, Women's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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