Ensuring that all households thrive


By Barb Arland-Fye

In her Condition of the State Address earlier this year, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds describes Iowa as “one of the most livable, most affordable states in the country. A state that’s #1 for retirement and #1 for young homeownership.” A state that “saves more money than it spends, cuts taxes, and rewards economic growth and innovation; that orients its educational system to students, parents, and teachers; where life is protected, family comes first, and community runs deep.”

Yet, many families in Iowa are struggling. One in 6 working households in Iowa struggles to meet basic needs on their earnings alone. More than half of single parents in the state are falling short.” These findings come from the Cost of Living in Iowa report released March 12 by Common Good Iowa.

The report found that a “basic-needs wage statewide for single workers is over twice the $7.25 minimum wage and much higher for others. A single parent with one child needs to earn at least $24.64 per hour, while two working parents each need $19.55 or more per hour to support two children, and a single working person must earn at least $14.82 an hour.”


“Despite the resilient economy and abundant resources of our state, far too many families work full time and still fall short of affording a basic needs budget,” said Sean Finn, the report’s lead author for Common Good Iowa (commongoodiowa.org/data/cost-of-living-in-iowa).

Catholic Social Teaching instructs us “to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.” We are about a month away from the projected close of this year’s legislative session but still have time to advocate for working households to ensure they enjoy the benefits Gov. Reynolds touted in her Condition of the State Address.

The 2024 legislative concerns of the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC), the public policy voice of Iowa’s Catholic bishops serve as a blueprint and include:

  • Increased funding for services to low-income preschool students.
  • Initiatives that would make health care more readily available and affordable to all Iowans, including immigrants and their children, and increase the availability of mental health care, palliative care and hospice service.
  • Enhancing support for pregnant mothers, babies and families in need. (Extension of Medicaid for new moms is moving forward.)
  • Measures to promote healthy families such as increasing the state’s minimum wage, increasing the availability of affordable housing and addressing food insecurity.
  • Assisting persons re-entering the community from incarceration.
  • Maintaining a progressive tax code and revenues sufficient to meet the basic needs of the poor and vulnerable. (The legislature is pursuing a flat tax, which would negatively impact low-income workers.)

The specific recommendations of the Cost of Living in Iowa report align in large part with the advocacy efforts of the ICC. The report states, “Iowa needs to take steps to boost household resources for low- and moderate-income families. These include expansions of working family tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, creating a meaningful and refundable Child Tax Credit, raising reimbursement rates for child care and Medicaid providers, cracking down on wage theft, and of course raising the state’s minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 since the dawn of 2008.”

Learn more about all of these issues by visiting the ICC website (iowacatholicconference.org), the Common Good Iowa report (commongoodiowa.org/data/cost-of-living-in-iowa) and reading The Catholic Messenger (print, e-edition and website, catholicmessenger.net). Then, contact your Iowa legislators (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/) to support the recommendations in the Cost of Living in Iowa report.

Our informed advocacy responds to our call as faithful citizens to ensure that all households thrive.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

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