Iowa House passes ban on guaranteed income programs, aimed at Polk County’s UpLift pilot

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By Galen Bacharier, Des Moines Register

The Iowa House has passed legislation banning local governments from adopting or enforcing guaranteed income programs, targeting a Polk County-based pilot initiative that provides 110 people with $500 per month.

UpLift, a program put on by 36 organizations across central Iowa, sends the unrestricted monthly payments to participants to assist in covering the costs of basic needs.

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The program, and any others like it, would be banned under House File 2319, passed on a 55-43 vote Monday. Seven Republicans joined Democrats in opposition.

The attorney general’s office, under the bill, would be able to send cease-and-desist orders to any county that adopts or enforces a program that provides guaranteed income. The legislation would also open counties that violate the ban to lawsuits.

Why do Republican lawmakers oppose guaranteed income programs?

Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, has called guaranteed income proposals “socialism on steroids,” saying UpLift and programs like it undermined employers and were not welcome in Iowa.

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“Just as we do not allow cities and counties to have different laws on murder, we’re not going to allow cities and counties to murder our work ethic,” Holt said.

Democrats argued that the bill would undermine local authority and advocates’ efforts to reduce poverty.

“Great things can happen at the local level, and this bill takes away cities’ and counties’ ability to solve local issues, and perhaps lead us to better public policy,” said Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames.

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What is UpLift and how would legislation affect it and other income programs?

Under the bill, UpLift would be allowed to remain in effect until Jan. 1, 2025. The pilot phase of the program is scheduled to end in May 2025, after two years of monthly payments.

Work study and other training programs are exempt under the bill, which specifies the programs as those that provide “regular periodic cash payments that are unearned and may be used for any purpose.”

Upon its introduction, the bill also received opposition from the Des Moines Area Religious Council, the Iowa Public Health Association and one of the groups invested in UpLift, which argued that cutting off the program early would hamper its ability to collect valuable data.

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Led by The Tom and Ruth Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement, UpLift is supported by Polk County and receives funding from 11 public and private sources. Participants receive debit cards reloaded each month with $500.

The vast majority (81%) of the program’s 110 participants are Polk County residents, and at least 65% live in a metropolitan area.

The group, many of which are working full-time, reported earning an average household income of just over $24,000 annually.

Amanda Tugade contributed reporting.

Galen Bacharier covers politics for the Register. Reach him at [email protected] or (573) 219-7440, and follow him on Twitter @galenbacharier.

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