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Three Iowa Senators hashed out a bill in subcommittee on Thursday that would take away food stamp assistance for a parent if they are not cooperating with the child support recovery unit in establishing and enforcing a child support order pursuant to federal law.

Basically a noncustodial parent has to be paying their child support in order to receive supplemental nutrition assistance.


“I don’t know why you would oppose this,” said Republican Sen. Jason Schultz. “Yet I’m still going to learn because I bet there’s people here who say there’s a reason that shouldn’t happen.”

Karla Fultz McHenry of Opportunity Solutions Project supports the bill.

“We shouldn’t be giving food stamps, public benefits, to an Iowan who is not paying his child support or a woman not paying child support,” she said.

Details needed to be ironed out, however.

MaryNelle Trefz of Child and Family Policy Center is against the bill.

“When someone’s food assistance is taken away, that puts both parents and children at risk,” she said. “A lot of times when child support is not being paid it’s because that person is struggling to make ends meet. Taking away food assistance that would prevent them from meeting some of their basic needs might make it even more challenging for that person to make child support payments.”

Luke Elzinga of the Des Moines Area Religious Council said he echoed those concerns.

“We don’t want to risk anyone struggling to make ends meet with removing those benefits because it is an essential human need,” he said.

Americans For Prosperity’s Drew Klein supported the bill.

“There’s probably some important distinctions to make,” he said. “Cooperating with child custody does not necessarily mean paying full payments. I think on a philosophical level we want people to be treated with dignity. Part of that means that they’re held to a standard — that we want them to be taking care of the obligations they’ve created. Willingly or unwillingly, we have obligations. Holding them to a standard is part of uplifting the dignity of an individual as well.”

Sen. Jason Schultz asked those in attendance a question after testimony was finished.

“When you resist every single idea that would put any type of duty upon a recipient of public benefits, are people simply secretly hoping for just a living wage,” he asked. “Do you want public benefits to be handed out without any obligation to meet a standard or to meet a duty to try to conduct your life in a way that would statistically move you off of these benefits? I consider this to be a relatively minor ask of the taxpayer.”

Sen. Tony Bisignano asked for clarification on the bill. Only the food assistance for the parent failing to take care of child support would be revoked, not the food assistance for anyone else who may be in the same household.

Bisignano asked what the administrative costs would be compared to the cost of the system now.

“You can hate it all you want, but sometimes it’s cheaper not to try to perfect something like this than it is to perfect it,” Bisignano said.

Sen. Zach Whiting supported advancing the measure.


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