Archive for  April 13th 2018

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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.”

JEFFERSON, Iowa — City officials in Jefferson have agreed to halt a controversial animal control practice effective immediately and implement what some say is a more humane one.

Jefferson has a feral cat problem.  Residents and officials say there are a handful of large cat colonies roaming the town. Until Thursday, residents could request a live trap monitored by police.  If police caught a cat that was deemed “unadoptable” they would euthanize the cat with a gunshot.  Residents like Sue Taylor say they didn’t know that was the case.

“Kinda cruel, I think…I just thought they always took them to the animal rescue, but no, I don’t think they should shoot them” she said.

If the cat appeared healthy and taken care of, police would take them to a local shelter, but city officials say unadoptable feral cats pose a risk to the community.

“We see disease spread, it can be a problem for citizen’s pets for similar reasons and it can be a problem for native wildlife” said City Councilman Matt Wetrich.

Under city code officers are granted the ability to “humanely destroy feral cats”, but whether a gunshot is considered humane is somewhat up for debate.  According to Iowa code, gunshots are permitted in certain circumstances, but the code also says they should not be a routine practice. The Iowa ARL says Jefferson police used this method about once a month.

“If it’s their policy that you judge a cat you pick up to be unadoptable, that becomes routine” said Scott Wilson, the ARL’s Animal Welfare Coordinator.

The ARL, along with the Animal Protection and Education Charity asked the city to instead implement a spay, neuter, and release program.

“If you take the cats out of the community, more cats are going to fill the void; it’s just a natural function. If there’s a good environment for cats, cats are going to come in. Where if you have an existing colony that is not breeding, it’ll keep new cats from entering the colony, but the colony will slowly, over time, die out” said Wilson.

The city agreed, and effective immediately, will no longer be offering traps to residents.

“It’s certainly not ideal, and I think if you would ask any of our great officers that’s not their favorite thing to do or what they’d prefer to do, I know there are other options and we’ll be exploring that moving forward” said Wetrich.

City officials say it costs about 35 dollars per cat to euthanize them with either drugs or gas; they say between that and holding costs, a gunshot was more cost effective.  The ARL says Animal Protection and Education, along with Alley Cat Allies out of Maryland, have agreed to help fund the new spay, neuter, release program.  Officials say it could take up to 18 months to get the program off the ground and revise city code.