Study Shows ‘Welfare Fraud’ Nearly Nonexistent In Iowa As GOP Aims To Restrict SNAP

By Amie Rivers

January 28, 2023

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%.

Sen. Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton) made her comments during the taping of Iowa Press on Friday. The episode is scheduled to air this weekend.

“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.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:


by Amie Rivers

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  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.

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