Governor endorses plan targeting Iowans on public assistance

A longstanding effort by Iowa Senate Republicans to reduce the number of Iowans receiving various forms of public assistance got a quiet boost last week from Governor Kim Reynolds.

For the first time, the governor’s draft human services budget included provisions that would create asset tests for federal food assistance and require the Iowa Department of Human Services to establish a new “eligibility verification system” for Medicaid and several other public assistance programs.

State Senator Jason Schultz has pushed similar legislation for several years running. Each session, Senate Republicans have approved the bills, which died in the House Human Resources Committee (see here and here).

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A call for responsibility, accountability, and compassion in the new year

Ras Smith represents Iowa House district 62, covering part of Waterloo. -promoted by Laura Belin

Christmas, for me, is a season of spiritual tradition, personal reflection, and service to
community. Because my mom is a pastor, I had the fortune of growing up in a faith-filled church community. Today, my own children are blessed to experience a closeness to this family faith that instills in them the importance of loving and serving our fellow humans. This makes the holiday season even more meaningful.

As I reflect upon the year, I think about the thousands of Iowans who stepped up to help one another during a global pandemic. I think about people pouring into communities to clean up, provide food, build shelter, and give moral support in the wake of the devastating derecho. I think about the sacrifices of so many essential workers across the state. This is the unbreakable spirit of Iowa, and why I love living here.

But as I reflect further, my heart also hurts for families across the state who experienced preventable suffering and loss at the hands of poor leadership.

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State moves forward on merging human services, public health programs

The state of Iowa is looking for a private company to help integrate programs of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) and Department of Public Health (IDPH).

Governor Kim Reynolds indicated this summer that she planned to merge many operations of the departments, which serve a combined total of more than 1 million Iowans. After Gerd Clabaugh announced plans to retire as IDPH director, Reynolds appointed DHS Director Kelly Garcia to serve simultaneously as interim director of public health, saying in a news release, “This is an opportunity to increase cooperation and collaboration between these two agencies to better serve Iowans.”

A Request for Proposal reveals more details about the planned scope of the reorganization, which is scheduled to begin early next year. Notably, control of infectious diseases is among the areas of the IDPH’s work that will be “excluded from the redesign.”

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Exclusive: Iowa governor used CARES Act funds to pay staff salaries

Governor Kim Reynolds directed that nearly $450,000 in federal funding the state of Iowa received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act be used to cover salaries and benefits for staff working in her office.

According to documents Bleeding Heartland obtained from the Iowa Department of Management through public records requests, the funds will cover more than 60 percent of the compensation for 21 employees from March 14 through June 30, 2020.

Reynolds has not disclosed that she allocated funds for that purpose, and reports produced by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency have not mentioned any CARES Act funding received by the governor’s office. Nor do any such disbursements appear on a database showing thousands of state government expenditures under the CARES Act.

The governor’s communications director Pat Garrett did not respond to four requests for comment over a two-week period.

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Highlights, dog whistles from an Iowa Senate debate

Matt Chapman closely follows Iowa legislative affairs, especially bills like the one discussed here. -promoted by Laura Belin

Iowa Senate Republicans have approved another bill targeting people receiving public assistance, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Senate File 2272, which passed along party lines February 26, would require the state to contract for extra screening, looking for evidence of Iowans enrolled in more than one state. Labor and Business Relations Committee chair Jason Schultz introduced and floor-managed the bill. He has been attempting to pass versions of this legislation for years and sponsored five bills in a similar vein in 2019.

The vendor that would receive the contract, LexisNexis, does similar work in other states, often flagging 15 percent of beneficiaries as possibly fraudulent. In the five southern states that have adopted this screening, further checks have confirmed dual participation by just 0.1 percent to 0.2 percent of enrollees, on average.

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