Rep. Tom Jeneary

Republicans in the legislature are proposing new income thresholds for who qualifies for government food and health care assistance.

Committees in the House and Senate have approved bills that say households with more than $15,000 in liquid assets, like checking and savings accounts, would not be eligible for SNAP benefits, commonly called food stamps, or Medicaid, although the value of a home or a vehicle would not be included in that calculation. Current rules for Medicaid and food stamps do not have an asset test, but are restricted based on income.

The bills also call for a new system to check the finances and verify the identities of Iowans receiving food or health care assistance. Republican Representative Thomas Jeneary (JEN-er-ee) of Le Mars says the bill would make distributing benefits more efficient and help prevent fraud.

“The legislature is dedicated to protecting Iowa’s safety net for Iowans in need while at the same time protecting the Iowa taxpayer from paying services for ineligible individuals,” Jeneary says.

The bill that’s now eligible for debate in the House would also require some people getting food and health care assistance to work. Democrats opposed the bill. Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell of Ames says if it becomes law, many Iowans currently receiving SNAP benefits or health care coverage through Medicaid will lose that safety net.

“This just seems to me to lack so much compassion for parents who are trying to feed their children and for Iowa’s elderly living on fixed incomes,” Wessel-Kroeschell says.

More than 800,000 low income and disabled Iowans are currently enrolled in Medicaid. An average of about 280,000 Iowans received SNAP benefits monthly during the last state fiscal year.

Radio Iowa