# Poverty



Wrong-headed bill on food assistance raises questions

Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column.

Sometimes it’s easy to understand legislative proposals. Other times, not so much. House File 3, filed early in the Iowa legislature’s 2023 session, falls in the second category. To understand its potential effect on needy people, take a quick look at two preexisting food programs whose nutritional goals differ.

First, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the federal program once called food stamps. It exists to help low-income households and those on Medicaid buy groceries.

Second, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (commonly known as WIC) aims to meet the specific nutritional needs of its designated recipients. WIC doesn’t allow recipients to use those funds for meat, sliced cheese, butter, flour, or fresh produce.

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Zach Nunn has a lot to learn about federal food programs

Fresh off his assignment to the House Agriculture Committee, U.S. Representative Zach Nunn revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of who benefits from federal food assistance programs.

Although the first-term Republican told an interviewer that nutritional assistance goes “largely to blue state communities,” one federal food program alone serves nearly 10 percent of Nunn’s constituents in Iowa’s third Congressional district.

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Kacey Davis for Broadlawns trustee

Melissa Halverson, DNP ARNP is a Des Moines area nurse practitioner specializing in gastroenterology.

This November, Polk County voters will fill three seats on the Broadlawns Board of Trustees.

When I heard my friend and former colleague Kacey Davis was running for Broadlawns Board of Trustees, I must admit I was a little surprised. After all, she had a toddler, and a demanding job. That seemed to be a lot to handle even without a campaign in the mix.

But I should not have been so surprised. As a family nurse practitioner in community health, Kacey knows firsthand the barriers to finding medical care and mental health services for our most vulnerable residents. Helping to break down those barriers motivates her to serve on the Broadlawns Board of Trustees.

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Governor's action cost Iowans $141 million in food assistance

Iowans who qualify for federal food assistance received $141 million less in benefits from April through August, due to Governor Kim Reynolds’ action earlier in the year, according to data the Iowa Hunger Coalition released on October 12.

After Reynolds ended the state’s public health emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowans lost access to the emergency allotments in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The Iowa Hunger Coalition calculated that the total amount Iowans received through SNAP dropped by 43 percent from March to April.

Without the emergency allotments, the coalition reported, “On average, households have been receiving $200 less in benefits every month. The average SNAP benefit per meal for individuals in Iowa was $1.56 in August 2022.”

The federal government entirely funds the SNAP program, so the state of Iowa saved no money by depriving food-insecure Iowans of extra benefits.

On the contrary: the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service has calculated that each $1 issued in SNAP benefits generates $1.54 in economic impact. (When people in need receive more food assistance, they can spend more of their limited resources on other goods and services in their community.) So the $141 million Iowans did not receive from April through August could have increased Iowa’s gross domestic product by $217 million.

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Cindy Axne should withdraw her racist police bill

Jaylen Cavil and Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz co-authored this commentary. Cavil is a Democratic candidate in Iowa House district 36. Murguia-Ortiz is an independent candidate in Iowa Senate district 17.

Dog whistles have been a feature of U.S. politics for decades. President Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens,” President Bill Clinton’s “law and order” campaign, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calling Barack Obama a “food stamps president” are all examples of racist talking points. Politicians use coded language when trying to garner support by triggering racial anxiety. 

Today’s version of the “war on crime”—a reaction to nationwide calls to defund the police and fund communities instead—is no different from the racist wars on drugs and poverty that have led to the incarceration and deaths of millions.

With the introduction of the Invest to Protect Act, U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (D, IA-03) and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley have joined forces to re-employ this dog whistle strategy.

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Build back something

Charles Bruner: Taxes, inflation, and essential services … there’s an obvious solution for Democrats.

President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress have done much to support essential workers and provide economic help to working and retired Americans during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several of those actions were designed to become permanent: improvements to the child tax credit, investments in child care, and expansion of home and community based services and the direct care workforce.

Established in the American Rescue Plan Act through a process known as reconciliation (which requires only a simple majority vote and therefore could be enacted without Republican support), these policies have proved both popular and effective.

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