An error by the state has led to thousands of Iowans being paid double benefits from the Department of Human Services this month. The benefits to 13,380 Iowans are for the Family Investment Program — or what used to be know as the welfare program.
D.H.S. spokesman Roger Munns says the department was to shift all the payments from check to electronic cards at the beginning of this month. He says the first electronic payments were last week, but the information technology staff failed to shut down the system that automatically mails out the checks, “so basically the Family Investment Program people received their January benefits twice.”
Munns says they are sending out a letter to tell the recipients they can send the checks back and then they will get a benefit on their electronic card in February. That letter will go out today (Tuesday). Munns says if they choose to keep the check, they will not get an electronic benefit in February.
Munns says the electronic payment change is similar to what was done with food assistance, which was moved from paper food stamps, to the electronic debit cards. Munns says the idea is to save postage, and for accuracy and to avoid lost or stolen checks. “It makes a lot of sense to do it this way, but this isn’t the inaugural that we had planned,” Munns says.
Munns says recipients with questions can call their local D.H.S. office. Munns says the average payment is $327, which adds up to over four million dollars for those who are in the transition. Some 3,000 recipients already receive their benefits via an electronic bank transfer.
Munns says the FIP program replaced the welfare system and requires recipients to agree to work toward self-sufficiency, and limits them to five years in the program.