The top issue I hear about from employers in our state is that we need more people in the workforce. This has sparked a conversation about the need for welfare reforms in Iowa.
Iowa is not alone in this discussion. State leaders from around the country are exploring ways to empower their citizens through economic self-sufficiency. As we begin this conversation in Iowa, I want to share my principles for how I believe the state should move forward. I believe government should give people a hand up into the workforce. We should examine public assistance programs on a regular basis to ensure they operate efficiently and encourage people to become self-reliant.
Iowa’s economic growth is limited because businesses do not have enough people. Meanwhile, despite a historically low unemployment rate in our state, the number of Iowans on public assistance is growing. It is critical that we find creative ways to get able-bodied Iowans into the workforce.
This session, Senate Republicans introduced legislation to improve how our state’s welfare programs verify that both new applicants and those currently using our assistance programs meet the income and other eligibility standards in federal and state law. Our goal is to make sure our public assistance programs are used by those who actually qualify, while those who do not qualify are removed from the programs and directed back to the workforce.
In addition to encouraging able-bodied people to re-enter the workforce, improving verification for public assistance will eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in these programs. Taxpayers deserve to know that their public assistance programs are supporting those who really qualify for it under the law.
Public assistance programs should be an on-ramp to work, not a barrier. Iowa’s childcare assistance program fails to meet this goal. For many working Iowans, their childcare cost is higher than their rent. Childcare assistance from the state is the only way they can stay in the workforce. Many employers have told me about employees who decided not to take a raise or a new job because they would make too much money to keep their childcare subsidy.
This is unacceptable. That is why I am working with groups like the United Way of Central Iowa and the Iowa Business Council to find a solution to this cliff effect. Fear of losing a public benefit should never be a barrier for people who want to climb the economic ladder.
The Iowa General Assembly will consider literally hundreds of other bills and issues before it adjourns in the spring. Please reach me by email or social media to share your thoughts on things happening here at the capitol. I look forward to hearing what you think!