We are truly in the home stretch of the 2023 Legislative Session. We had a productive week sending one of House Republicans’ original priorities to the Governor’s desk and passing a property tax relief plan through committee.
Accountability in Iowa’s Welfare Programs
This week, the Iowa House passed Senate File 494 to implement reasonable accountability measures for Iowa’s public assistance programs. This bill has taken many forms throughout the legislative process as we’ve sought feedback from Iowans so below I’ll outline the big pieces in the final bill.
Our goal with this legislation is to increase the accuracy in the distribution of government assistance. We want a sustainable system that will be there for all Iowans who truly need it, but we also want to avoid incentivizing Iowans to stay reliant on government rather than re-entering the workforce or growing in their careers.
A more efficient eligibility system
With this bill, we aim to simplify the application, authentication and eligibility check systems to ensure Iowans are getting the benefits they deserve. All applicants will need to complete a computerized identity authentication process before receiving their benefits. It also requires the state to check all income, employment, and financial institutions to ensure that applicants for welfare programs meet all eligibility criteria for those programs. And finally, it requires a more efficient, user-friendly eligibility system to be in place by July 1, 2025. This very necessary IT upgrade will benefit all those who apply for assistance and these checks within the system will ensure more accuracy in our welfare programs.
Asset testing for SNAP benefits only
In this bill, we also add asset test requirements to be eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. These are a number of reasonable requirements to ensure that those who are on SNAP are those truly in need.
This bill sets the asset limits at $15,000 liquid assets for the household and allows for one vehicle to have unlimited value, and a second vehicle to be up to $10,000 in value. Household items like clothes or TVs don’t count toward someone’s liquid assets. Once again to be clear, this portion of the bill only applies to SNAP, not to Medicaid.
Child Support Payment Enforcement
This bill also makes cooperation with child support services a condition of eligibility for Medicaid. There are roughly 40,000 cases of unpaid child support cases in Iowa. Iowa House Republicans think it’s important that these moms or dads are paid the money they are due to receive through child support recovery.
Property Tax Relief
I know many of you probably had a similar experience to me last week when I got my property assessment and saw a 20% increase in my assessment on a property I’ve made no upgrades to. This is an issue we’ve heard about from Iowans all across the state. While some folks’ property tax bills may increase by more than 10%, their most likely not seeing an income increase of the same amount.
The system right now is set up to provide no transparency or certainty for taxpayers. This week, we passed House File 1 through the Ways and Means committee with an amendment unanimously.
Here’s what the bill does:
- Reduces the 5.40 levy by $1 and has the state fund the difference. This will deliver more than $200 million in real, immediate tax relief to Iowans.
- Caps annual property tax increases per parcel to 3% for residential and agricultural properties and 8% for commercial and industrial properties.
- Increases transparency in the process by requiring more notice to the taxpayers and moving all elections for bonding to the general election date.