In the past year there’s been a 25 percent increase in the number of Iowans who’re receiving government food assistance — what used to be known as food stamps. Roger Munns, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Human Services, says the trend in food assistance the past year has been “remarkable.” Munns says in the past, “food stamp” usage used to be a barometer of the economy — so when there was an economic downturn there’d be an increase in requests for food stamps. He says now, there are other factors driving food assistance use. Munns says the state has made “aggressive efforts” to get people to sign up for benefits. For example, folks on food stamps used to have to prove each month that they were poor enough to qualify. Now, recipients need to provide bank records and pay stubbs just twice a year and Munns says that’s the biggest reason for the increase. In addition, there are no more paper coupons. Coupons have been replaced by a debit-like card that recipients swipe just like an A-T-M card or credit card at the cash register. That “addresses the dignity factor” according to Munns, who says food stamp customers look just like all other grocery store customers and don’t have the “stigma” of using coupons to buy their food. In September, 195-thousand Iowans received government-paid food assistance. That’s 36-thousand more than in September of last year. “Bear in mind, the people who are signing up for food stamps, or food assistance, are eligible for it,” Munns says. “It’s not as if these two efforts are finding people who are not eligible and getting them to sign up.” Less than two-hundred dollars a month is the average amount a qualified Iowa household receives in food assistance. Munns says you have to really poor in order to qualify for food assistance from the government.
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