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Report: Barriers for Iowa Families on the Financial Edge

April 30, 2010

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Many struggling families, in Iowa and throughout the upper Midwest, are simply not getting the help they need. A new report from the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) of Minnesota documents the barriers families face when trying to access work support programs, including health care, child care assistance, food support, and energy assistance.

CDF Minnesota Director Jim Koppel says the study analyzed data in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, for programs that are especially critical during economic recessions.

"Right now, we have a lot of families who are in need of these work support programs for the first time in their lives. They've lost jobs in the economy and they've run out of their personal safety nets."

Koppel says the significant barriers they found include excessive co-payments, long waiting periods or waiting lists, and complicated application procedures. He says lawmakers need to look at solutions to break down those barriers.

"We have a lot of new families coming into the system who don't understand these applications; they are burdensome; they are hard to get through, and a report like this outlines a pathway for states to make these programs more accessible."

The report also reveals that these five states lose out on millions of federal dollars each year. Koppel says Iowa ranks near the bottom in terms of money paid into the federal coffers as taxes, versus the amount of money that comes back to the state, largely because the work support programs are underutilized by those who need them the most.

CDF recommends improving access to work support programs, saying it not only would help families get back on their feet, but also would help boost local economies. The full report is online at www.cdf-mn.org.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA