DES MOINES, Iowa — “I think the first reaction that I had and we had here at United Way is that there really wasn’t a problem that we needed to solve,” said Elisabeth Buck, President of United Way of Central Iowa.
Buck says President Trump’s Executive Order requiring recipients of federal aid programs to work or face the loss of benefits, is a solution in search of a problem.
“When we did the research here on Iowa SNAP recipients, 97 percent of them are either working, elderly, or disabled,” said Buck. “So, most recipients of these benefits are currently working.”
Buck says adding requirements could make life more difficult than it already is for Iowans receiving public assistance.
“To require them to prove what they`re already doing would be one more step for struggling families, to have to go to a government office or produce paper to show that they`re working,” said Buck “May have to take off work to meet those needs and those requirements, so it would really burden families who are already struggling and working.”
In Central Iowa alone, nearly 35 out of every 100 residents live in poverty and rely on public assistance to survive. Many participate in the federal supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP). The program is also sometimes referred to as Food Stamps.
“We already have work requirements to receive SNAP,” said Luke Elzinga, Communications Manager for the Des Moines Area Religious Council. “For able bodied adults without dependents, ages 18-49, they`re already required to work at least 20 hours a week or participate in a job training program.”
Elzinga says he believes the notion that there are a lot of people out there mooching off of the system is a false narrative.
“We do know that only 14 percent of people who receive SNAP benefits are unemployed, or have had no family member working in the last 12 months,” said Elzinga.
And Elzinga says adding more hurdles for people who are in need of help could add insult to injury.
“Just imagine you`ve been looking for a job and trying, and the SNAP program has been there to help you while you`re looking for that, and just to be told that you`re not essentially trying hard enough or not doing the right things that you should be doing,” said Elzinga. “I think we just should really be providing more support for people so that they can lift themselves out of poverty, rather than trying to basically preach at people about that the things they’re doing wrong.”