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Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) called Senate File 2272 the first step of efforts to reform Iowa’s welfare system. The bill will essentially update Iowa’s public assistance program oversight.

There was an effort to accomplish that goal last year, but it stalled in the House after passing through the Senate. Iowa was fined $1.79 million for having too high of an error rate.

Schultz said current income maintenance workers are using a manual system that dates back decades. With 600,000 Iowans going through the process and 500 employees making calls, it requires workers to get 10-12 cases done a day.

Last year, Schultz said, Iowa had a 10-percent error rate. As workers get behind, it forces recipients, nursing homes and hospitals to wait.

“We can do far better than that in 2020,” Schultz said. “I’m here to offer you a way to get that done.”

In all, those errors lead to $40 million in overpayments.

“That tells me we’ve got to do something,” Schultz said. “That tells me we have to actually work to solve this problem.”

Division 1 of the bill moves Iowa into a national accuracy clearinghouse, which has been mandated by the federal government.

LexisNexis is used as the vendor to do the checks and make sure people do not fall through the cracks. The vendor is not in charge of removing people from the program either. It simply provides the state Human Resources Department with information.

Sixty percent of the errors are actual state error, Schultz said. Not because of the people doing the income checks, but because the old system that is being used.

“You’re trying to get humans to make phone calls on 600,000 people, handle data, transfer data from one screen to the next,” he said.

Forty percent of errors are because of clients providing inaccurate information.

The cost for the program would be $1.8 million in the opening year, which is just about the amount Iowa was fined.

The bill, Schultz said, will help taxpayers. Currently, illegal aliens come to Iowa and buy social security numbers. This allows them not only to get a job but to also receive public benefits. Schultz was told about a man who showed others the documents purchased and bragged about not just getting a job but also using it at the welfare office.

“That can’t be,” Schultz said. “I’ve got to tell you right now the very simple fact of the matter is that would be one of the first things you would catch, identity fraud and theft of identity. Legal workers in Denison are very excited that somebody is addressing this because they’re actually doing it right. They’re laughed at by people who say, ‘why don’t you just mess with the system.’ We can fix that.”

Schultz added it also cleans up concerns with people receiving benefits from multiple states.

Sen. Tom Greene (R-Burlington) said he ran for office with the purpose of addressing this issue. He told a story he heard from a cashier at a Hy-Vee. She said two guys used their SNAP cards to purchase king crab legs, lobster tails, giant shrimp and a $60 cake for their Super Bowl party.

“This isn’t taking food away from children,” Greene said. “This is taking away luxuries from those who abuse the program. That’s not the first time the suppliers have mentioned to me of a problem like this.”

Greene said this demonstrates a misuse of taxpayer dollars.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) criticized Schultz for the bill.

“I gotta give it to you, Sen. Schultz,” Bolkcom said. “You stick with stuff. You really do stick with stuff. You’re obsessed with this issue actually. You just can’t grind away enough at people, grind away at the kids, grind away at people with disabilities.”

At that point, Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) called for a point of order. The point was accepted, and Bolkcom was reminded not to question the integrity of fellow senators.

“Well Sen. Schultz, I just want to say you do it all with a smile,” Bolkcom said. “Doing damage to our kids, disenfranchised people, and I think poor people. All with a smile. What happened to lifting people up?”

Bolkcom asked when the Labor committee would take up wage theft, saying fewer Iowans may need food stamps if they actually got paid what they worked for.

“You tell us you’re standing for the taxpayer,” Bolkcom said. “Big, tough guy standing up to the hungry kids. But not so much about the cheating employers. Not so much.”

Sen. Zach Wahls (D-Coralville) said he was disappointed to see the Democrat amendments shot down. He said people receiving SNAP are more likely to consume meat, poultry and vegetables. It impacts the elderly, children and people who are disabled most often.

“This idea that it is worth jeopardizing the food security of the hundreds of thousands of Iowans to go after this program to go after fraud and abuse — I don’t get it,” Wahls said.

He noted only 85 percent of Iowans who are eligible for SNAP actually receive benefits.

“So, despite the rhetoric, more Iowans are eligible for SNAP and not receiving benefits than folks who are receiving more of a benefit than they should be,” Wahls said.

Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) listed a number of organizations registered against the bill. He asked Schultz why Schultz thought health care providers and health advocacy groups registered against the bill.

“Money,” Schultz said. “They want money in the system. They don’t care where it comes from. They don’t care what the integrity of the system is. They serve a population who receivers taxpayer money and they don’t want any fences around those dollars.”

Hogg said that seemed like a cynical answer.

“I would think that maybe they’re registered against the bill because they like to take care of people,” Hogg said. ”

Sen. Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines) said that Democrats and Republicans are against fraud. The bill, he said, is not about fraud.

“This discussion is about people who are not abusing the system,” he said. “(They’re) getting caught in a mechanism that cuts off their healthcare and basic food that they need to get by. That’s the concern that is being raised by this side of the aisle.”

Schultz doubled down on his accusation of those who registered against the bill doing so due to money.

“Social justice warriors who don’t care about how much money comes in, they want more,” he said. “I’ll double down. A lot of people around the wall are left-wing, social justice warriors. That is simply a fact.”

Schultz gave history about how he learned about the program that could be used to verify eligibility. He said the bill simply verifies eligibility as soon as possible. Democrat opposition to the bill, he said, is about Democrats not wanting to put limits on anyone’s health care. He noted the No. 1 Democrat in the presidential field is an avowed socialist.

“That’s why you’re doing the bait and switch, talking about poor people in the system who aren’t going to lose a thing,” he said. “You say you’re against fraud, but really you’re not against fraud at all.”

Schultz said while the price tag for the program may be an initial $1.8 million, the net of how much it will save the second year, the state will save $10 million in two years.

He did that in a Dr. Evil voice from Austin Powers, who Sen. Claire Celsi (D-West Des Moines) compared Schultz to on Twitter.

The bill passed 32-17.

Author: Jacob Hall


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