(Des Moines, Iowa) – The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) is deploying a comprehensive approach to address food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. DHS submitted federal waivers to Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) to ensure continued and expanded access to food. Food Assistance will continue for all current recipients. Benefits will increase for current and new recipients.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
This federal legislation allows for:
• Increased benefits for current and newly eligible applicants
DHS will increase April and May Food Assistance benefits to the maximum allowable amount per household.
• If a household is not already receiving the maximum amount for April and May, those additional benefits will be added to their EBT card with their normal monthly benefits.
• Adjustment of Food Assistance eligibility requirements and benefits to address the loss of school lunch
DHS is working collaboratively with the Department of Education to research opportunities related to increased food insecurity for Iowa families who rely on school lunch programs.
Food assistance auto-recertification
Food Assistance households who would normally have a recertification due in March, April, or May, have had their cases re-certified for six months. A Notice of Decision will not be sent to households regarding this extension.
Suspension of food assistance work requirements
The new legislation allows states to suspend Food Assistance work requirements, except in limited circumstances. Food Assistance recipients will not have benefits terminated for failure to comply with work requirements.
New online options to purchase food
Amazon and Walmart now offer online options for Iowans using their Food Assistance EBT card to purchase food. This service is available statewide. Amazon will deliver to all Iowa ZIP codes. Walmart provides this service for all store locations that offer online grocery. DHS is exploring additional opportunities to expand this program to include other retailers.
Emergency food assistance
DHS requested an addendum to the state plan for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which increases access to food distribution to address food insecurity related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Iowans who are in need of emergency assistance due to an income change are now eligible for TEFAP. Iowans who are in need of food should contact their local food bank to find TEFAP providers in their area.
On March 18, 2020, DHS requested federal waivers to expand home-delivered meals to certain Medicaid recipients. This will provide home-delivered meals for Iowa Medicaid members who are home-bound and for home- and community-based service (HCBS) waiver members if their waiver does not have meals as an allowable service. Homemaker services have also been expanded, which allow someone to come into the home to prepare meals for HCBS waiver members.