The Regional Service Director for the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) spoke with the Cass County Board of Supervisors, during their meeting Wednesday, in Atlantic. Tom Bouska, said there are some changes being implemented to DHS programs people should be aware of. One of the changes affects eligibility for food assistance. Bouska says the eligibility limits have increased to 160-percent of the poverty level. He says the DHS no longer counts resources for food assistance, so more households are potentially eligible to apply for assistance.
He says the DHS is not directly “advertising” the new eligibility standards, but is has spread by “word of mouth.” The local DHS office sees spikes in requests for food assistance during the Winter, because of seasonal layoffs in construction, and late in the Summer, as families prepare for the coming school year, and have less to spend on food.
Bouska says about one of out every six-persons in Cass County receives some type of assistance from the DHS. Over the past year, 787 households in the County have received food assistance through the DHS’ food stamp, or snack program. That means 1,826 individuals were served by the program, which brings in $200,000 per month, or nearly $2.5-million dollars to Cass County.
The Family Investment Program (FIP), which is the DHS’ smallest program, and offers cash assistance to families with children who meet certain income guidelines, averages 81 families, 199 recipients, and equates to $26,000 per month, or $300,000 for the past 12 months. Bouska says 2,480 persons in Cass County, are eligible for Medicaid, which brought in about $21.5-million dollars. All together, approximately $24-million dollars is being spent on households in the County. Bouska says that’s a fair amount of money coming in to the County, which has a ripple affect on the economy. For example, for every One-dollar in food assistance generates almost two-dollars worth of financial activity.
Bouska says last year’s cutbacks and restructuring in the Department of Human Services mean there are less people available to handle the increasing caseload’s they’re seeing. He says their regional staff now covers nearly double the amount of counties they did last year in western Iowa. He says they hope to maintain the staff they have until 2013, with any additional cutbacks.
The number of DHS offices in the region were also trimmed, from 18 to 12. Bouska says by the year 2013, there will be a new eligibility system that will replace the current, nearly 40-year old system, in anticipation of the “Affordable Care Act,” which could mean anywhere from 80-to 100,000- more individuals will be eligible for Medicaid.