COMING UP AT THE STATE CAPITOL
We expect that there will be a subcommittee meeting scheduled soon at the Iowa Capitol to look at House Study Bill 508. The bill gets rid of “categorical eligibility” for food stamps (SNAP) in Iowa and puts in a new asset test. Being “categorically” eligible for SNAP is based on receiving benefits from other low-income assistance programs, like cash welfare or energy assistance.
This bill would establish an asset limit for SNAP of $2,500, which would make Iowa’s asset test tied with nine other states as the most restrictive in the country. Households with more than one vehicle ($4,650) would be at risk of losing eligibility to benefits. Most people need a car to get to work, particularly in rural areas.
Passing HSB 508 would likely drop tens of thousands of Iowans off food stamps even as there are fewer people receiving benefits than before the pandemic.
Several bills related to verifying eligibility for government assistance were passed by a subcommittee last week. The ICC will be monitoring the bills for their impact on those who need the help.
The governor’s tax bill was introduced in both chambers last week (House Study Bill 551 and Senate Study Bill 3044). Due in part to federal pandemic funds, the state has a $1.2 billion surplus and about an additional one billion in reserve funds. The bill would cut taxes and create a tax rate of 4% for everyone.
Among the impacts that should be considered:
How would this affect low-income people and the state’s ability to help care for the poor? Will we be able to avoid future cuts to assistance programs?
What would it do to charitable giving in the state, including fundraising for students to attend nonpublic schools?
How would the state earned income tax credit for low-income workers affect what they pay? Should the EITC be increased?
A Senate subcommittee will consider Senate File 339, which would require businesses to use the voluntary federal e-verify system to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. The ICC has opposed the bill in part because, if enforced, it would likely cause people to lose their jobs unjustly or not be able to be hired because of errors in the system. The ICC also believes it is the responsibility of federal authorities to enforce violations of e-verify, making state legislation duplicative.
While next week is Catholic Schools Week, this week is National School Choice Week. The Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education is sponsoring a breakfast for legislators on Thursday. We expect to see the governor’s Students First scholarship bill introduced soon.
A Senate subcommittee will review SF 485, which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees based on pregnancy or childbirth. The ICC supports the bill. We believe pregnant women should receive special consideration to meet their needs.
Many employers have developed good policies that support women employees in their roles as mothers. We appreciate that because it’s tough to negotiate these accommodations on your own. From our Catholic Church perspective, the economy exists to support the family, not the other way around.
ANNIVERSARY OF ROE V. WADE
One of the Iowa Catholic Conference’s priorities at the Legislature this year is a program we’re calling Iowa MOMS - More Options for Maternal Support. We are trying to make it possible for pregnant women in Iowa to access to additional assistance such as baby essentials, including cribs, clothing, formula, diapers, and counseling, referral, and care coordination. It would be funded from the state general fund.
Our abortion numbers in Iowa increased for a second straight year. In 2020, there were 4,058 reported abortions in Iowa, 392 more than the year before and a sharp increase in the number of non-residents. We are concerned that Iowa is becoming a destination for abortions, especially considering the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision making it a fundamental right. It is critical we help mothers through charity and government action.
On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States legalized abortion nationwide in its decision on Roe v. Wade. On the anniversary of the court’s decision, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities called on the faithful to “pray, fast, and work for the day when the gift of every human life is protected in law and welcomed in love.”
VANDALISM AT CATHOLIC SITES
There have been more than a hundred reported incidents of vandalism, arson, and other destruction at Catholic sites in the United States since May of 2020, as well as attacks on the property of other faith groups. The Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) can help. The NSGP provides grants to nonprofits and houses of worship to enhance security through physical security improvements, funding for emergency planning and training, upgrading security systems, and some renovation projects.
This past year, Congress appropriated $180 million to NSGP. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. The NSGP received over 3,300 applications for almost $400 million. The USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty is asking Congress to double the funding to $360 million.
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