The Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is a good time to recognize the strong public structures we have in place to protect Iowans most vulnerable to economic challenges. Two federal-state programs are ready to address times like these: Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
A health emergency is an opportunity to bolster both programs to make sure they operate as intended, mitigating the impact on Iowans while our state and local leaders do what they can to contain the spread of the virus.
These two work support programs ensure that Iowans have access to food and medical care. The accessibility and adequate funding of these programs ensure all Iowans are protected. The specific programs help those who have fallen on hard times. Making sure everyone in society gets health care reduces the transmission of disease. When schools are closed, children who get free meals need SNAP to ensure there is enough food at home. These are especially important concerns during crises.
Ironically, the integrity of these programs has been threatened recently at the federal and state levels:
- State and federal attempts to impose additional work reporting requirements and redundant quarterly eligibility checks for benefits would kick some families off of these vital work supports.
- Federal rule changes including time limits on benefits and eliminating efficient and streamlined processes to qualify, as well as budget cuts, all threaten the ability of SNAP to prop up workers, families and communities during an economic slowdown that may be one of the impacts of COVID-19.
- Similarly, budget cuts and the move to block grants fly in the face of Medicaid’s stated goal to provide health care to low-income Americans especially during an economic downturn.
We need Medicaid and SNAP now more than ever. It would be a timely move for lawmakers to step back and recognize that the safety net helps us all. Iowa bills SF430 and HF2030 impose bureaucratic hurdles that will serve to take food and doctor’s visits away from Iowans.
Especially during a public health crisis, we need our leaders looking for ways to help all Iowans get ahead.
Natalie Veldhouse is a research associate at the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project. firstname.lastname@example.org