More Iowans will be eligible for government food assistance next month, but the federal funding for that food aid comes with a catch.
Last spring, the Iowa Legislature raised the income eligibility limits for what used to be called food stamps. Experts say up to 7,000 more Iowans would qualify, but for the state to get the additional federal dollars for that food assistance, the state must promote the benefits of a healthy marriage.
Nancy Freudenberg, a compliance officer for the Department of Human Services, says the agency has created a flyer about marriage that will be mailed out with letters notifying applicants they’ve qualified for food stamps.
“Some states really actually like did classes and went all out for promoting marriage and it was never our intent to do that because we weren’t in the business of promoting marriage,” she says. “We were just looking at it as a way to access food assistance benefits.”
The flyer cites a variety of statistics, noting that spouses in a healthy marriage are less likely to drink heavily or use marijuana and their children achieve higher academic and economic success. “We know there’s people who are food insecure so any way that we can reach people, whether it’s through this brochure that wouldn’t normally apply,” Freudenberg says. “You know, if they pick up this brochure and think, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize I could be eligible,’ — you know, hey, why not?”
The cost of the flyer was covered by federal funding. Last month there were more than 350,000 Iowans receiving government food assistance.