The president of the Iowa Senate commented on an Iowa House bill that would restrict Iowans on public assistance, saying she believed it was necessary because “fraud and abuse exists in our system”—though Iowa’s SNAP fraud amounts to just 0.001%.
“I am glad the House is on board with welfare reform,” Sinclair said. “We know fraud and abuse exists in our system. This is a priority so aid can get to those who need it.”
SNAP changes in House Bill
Sen. Sinclair: I am glad the House is on board with welfare reform. We know fraud and abuse exists in our system. This is a priority so aid can get to those who need it.
— Iowa Press (@IowaPress) January 27, 2023
It’s a well-worn conservative talking point, and one favored by Koch-backed political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, one of the few groups backing the House bill.
But Iowa already isn’t getting its fair share of federal SNAP money.
Iowa should be getting more federal SNAP money
The federal government pays the full cost of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and half the cost for states to administer those benefits.
A little over 305,000 Iowans in 150,000 households were helped by SNAP in 2020, the last year for which data was available. The average recipient in Iowa received $156 per month in 2020, slightly lower than the national average of $160.
Iowa already isn’t getting its share of those federal dollars: Out of $73.9 billion the US spent on SNAP in 2020, Iowa got $530 million of it, or 0.72%—despite having 0.96% of the US population.
Now, Republicans want to cut Iowa’s share of that money even further, meaning more low-income Iowans will lose out on federal dollars and fall back on food banks already stretched thin by COVID, inflation, and supply chain issues.
How much fraud is there?
In the 2020 fiscal year, Iowa disqualified 322 out of 305,045 people on SNAP, and actually convicted just four people of fraud. That’s a fraud rate of one-thousandth of one percent.
Maybe it’s because we’re not catching these SNAP fraudsters, you say? Except, the bill, House File 3, doesn’t actually provide any additional money for administrators who would be looking for that fraud.
Instead, the bill as written is designed to prevent more Iowans from becoming eligible for SNAP by requiring more documentation and restricting assets, and punishing those on SNAP by restricting what foods and beverages they can buy.
If it’s truly “fraud and abuse” Sinclair is concerned with, she might start by adding safeguards to the school voucher bill she just helped pass into law. That’s because documented, large-scale fraud of school voucher money has been happening across the country for years:
- One private school principal used taxpayer money to buy two luxury vehicles, while teachers say they were not paid and there was no curriculum at the school;
- A former voucher school leader was indicted for money laundering, with the school closing after it owed half a million dollars;
- Several Milwaukee-area schools that took state taxpayer money later closed, and the heads of two different schools were later convicted of embezzling hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars each;
- Florida’s “loosely written school voucher laws” helped one Christian school head launder tens of thousands of dollars in state money, leading the state attorney to declare the state’s voucher system was “a situation ripe for fraud;”
- Parents in Arizona misspent more than $700,000 in taxpayer money they were supposed to spend on education expenses because, as the state superintendent put it, Republican lawmakers were “not willing to put the resources into the oversight.”
by Amie Rivers
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