A group of Iowa Republicans is pushing legislation that would limit what the state’s low-income residents are allowed to buy with their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
If it becomes law, Iowa’s House File 3 would reduce the breadth of what is eligible for purchase under SNAP benefits—sometimes referred to as food stamps—to a more limited array of options as defined under the list of supplemental foods in the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children, also known as WIC.
The restrictions would include bans on white grains like white bread, pasta and rice, as well as bans on using SNAP benefits to purchase certain starches like beans or cereals. Certain cheeses would also be banned, with restrictions on crumbled or sliced cheese.
Even fresh meat would be ineligible for purchase under the program. Under Iowa’s approved foods list, WIC benefits are limited to canned goods like tuna or salmon.
“This proposal is so dehumanizing,” Jaime Castle, a former Democratic candidate for Congress and former candidate for Cincinnati City Council, tweeted in response to an Axios Des Moines story about the proposal. “My sister is disabled from severe MS and gets SNAP help. For Christmas she asked for a bag of chocolate covered almonds—she’d been craving a treat but they weren’t allowed. Give people dignity!”
The proposed change comes amid a sweeping proposal to rewrite numerous aspects of Iowa’s public benefits regulations, including work requirements as well as regular audits of Medicaid recipients’ personal property and income to determine their eligibility. Families with more than one vehicle would also face new hurdles to receiving public assistance.
The bill—which is sponsored by nearly 40 House Republicans—comes just weeks after Republican Governor Kim Reynolds joined more than two-dozen red-state governors in signing a letter requesting that President Joe Biden end the ongoing public health emergency (PHE) related to the COVID-19 pandemic that prohibits states from booting Medicaid recipients off the program.
“The PHE is negatively affecting states, primarily by artificially growing our population covered under Medicaid, regardless of whether individuals continue to be eligible under the program,” Reynolds said in a statement at the time.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, states have added 20 million individuals to the Medicaid rolls, an increase of 30-percent, and those numbers continue to climb as the PHE continues to be extended every 90 days.”
Newsweek reached out to Reynolds’ office for comment.