One Car, Any Value


Good News. Iowans will be able to have one dependable car and still get welfare benefits and food assistance. Welfare (FIP) and food assistance (food stamps) limit the amount of resources a family can have and still be eligible. As a result of changes in the law on July 1, 2004, both FIP and food assistance now exclude one vehicle when they calculate resources a household has.

Contrary to popular belief, most households getting FIP or food assistance work. Having a reliable and safe car is very important. The changes will let more working persons qualify for help. The new changes will let families have reliable transportation to get to work, doctor appointments or daycare.

New Rules Allow One Exempt Vehicle

The new law and rules let a household own one vehicle that will not count toward the resource limit for a family getting FIP or food assistance. Vehicles include any licensed cars, trucks and motorcycles.

Having one car is no longer a reason a person will be found ineligible for FIP or food assistance. If you have more than one car, the value of the other vehicles could make you ineligible. FIP and food assistance use different rules to count your second or other vehicles. The rules are quite complicated and can be confusing. Sometimes workers at the Iowa Department of Human Services do not apply the rules to give people all the exemptions and credits the law allows. Other times, the Iowa Department of Human Services may overvalue a second vehicle.

Figuring the Value of a Second Vehicle

To figure out how much a car is worth, the Iowa Department of Human Services uses the "Blue Book" value. The Blue Book gives an industry standard for what the value of a car would be if you sold it. The Blue Book value is an average value. If your car has motor or body damage problems, then the Blue Book value may be too high. If a mechanic or other reliable source gives the Iowa Department of Human Services a statement that the Blue Book value is too high because of its problems, then the actual value of the car should be considered less. Finally, if extra equipment was added to a car to accommodate your disabilities, such as a lift ramp or special steering devices, it should not increase the value of the vehicle that is considered for eligibility purposes.

If you know people who apply for or get FIP or food assistance and are told they are not eligible because of the value of the vehicles or that they are over resource limits, have them contact their local Iowa Legal Aid office.

Last Review and Update: Dec 27, 2004

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