Apr 29, 2024 - News

Iowa Legislature bans funding for "guaranteed income" programs

Illustration of a no symbol made up of hundred dollar bills.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Guaranteed income programs like one started in the Des Moines metro last year could face major funding hurdles under legislation awaiting the governor's signature.

Why it matters: There's disagreement about whether the programs are unnecessary tax dollar handouts or paths out of poverty for some families, Iowa Public Radio reports.

Catch up fast: UpLift — The Central Iowa Basic Income Pilot is a $2.5 million program led by The Harkin Institute, featuring public and private funding, that launched early last year.

  • The program provides a $500 monthly stipend to 110 low-income families in Polk, Dallas and Warren counties over two years, with no conditions on how the money is spent.

Driving the news: House File 2319 prohibits Iowa's local governments from making payments to guaranteed income programs that do not have work requirements starting Jan. 1, 2025.

  • The bill was sent to Gov. Kim Reynolds last week, giving her about a month to sign or veto the measure.

The intrigue: Basic income programs exist in other states, but UpLift is the first to include urban, suburban and rural areas in a single pilot model.

  • Researchers are comparing participants' health and well-being those of families who do not receive the stipends.
  • Anecdotally, participants are so far indicating that the money is largely being spent to meet basic needs like food and housing, Nalo Johnson, CEO of Mid-Iowa Health Foundation, a partner in the pilot, tells Axios.

Follow the money: Local governments allocated some of the money for the program using federal pandemic allocations, including $500K from DSM, $250K from Polk County, $100K from Urbandale and $15K from Windsor Heights.

  • Seven other groups, including the Principal Foundation and United Way of Central Iowa, contributed the rest.

The big picture: Republican lawmakers in Texas, South Dakota, Arizona and Wisconsin have also banned or attempted to ban the programs.

  • Meanwhile, politicians in several blue states including Washington and Minnesota are pushing to expand them, Stateline reports.

Behind the scenes: Iowans for Tax Relief Foundation issued a statement just before the start of this year's legislative session warning the programs are a "wealth redistribution tactic" that could exacerbate labor shortages.

  • The bill was introduced a few months later with lobbyists from multiple conservative-leaning groups like Americans for Prosperity registering support.
  • More than 20 groups registered in opposition of the bill, however.

What they're saying: Studies like UpLift could help governments evaluate how to improve people's lives, Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott, D-West Des Moines, told IPR.

  • But some Republicans, including Sen. Brad Zaun, Urbandale, argued the programs are a form of socialism.

What's next: UpLift will continue under its full 24-month plan.

  • That's because of multiple non-government funding sources, Johnson says.

What we're watching: UpLift's final analysis will be published in summer 2026.

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