State officials say paperwork reduction has prompted a significant increase in the number of Iowans signing up for “food stamps.” However, there are no paper coupons anymore — folks get a debit card to use at the checkout — and those who qualify for food aid can file financial statements twice a year, rather than monthly. Governor Tom Vilsack says the program serves not only the unemployed, but Iowa’s working poor, elderly and disabled citizens.Vilsack says there used to be a “stigma” attached to Iowans who were forced to use the paper coupons, but now Vilsack says folks can walk into a store with “pride” knowing they’re taking care of their family. Vilsack says the biggest beneficiaries are Iowa’s children, because hungry kids get sick more often and don’t do as well in school. Department of Human Services director Kevin Concannon says since December 1st, 20-thousand more Iowans have signed up for food assistance benefits. He guesses one of the main reasons was the change to making recipients explain their financial condition to state officials just twice a year. Concannon says the requirement to gather all your financial information and get it into a state office every month was a “significant barrier.” Chris Louscher of Algona, the chair of the Iowa Human Services Council, says the feds, not the state, are paying the benefit. The food assistance program is federally-financed, and brought in 167 million dollars in food benefits for Iowans last year. She says that makes it good for grocers and farmers, too. The maximum benefit allowed for each household is 192 dollars. A family of four can make no more than 18-thousand dollars a year to qualify, and have no more than two-thousand dollars in assets. About 30 percent of the Iowa families on food assistance have one or both parents working.
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