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From Rep. Pat Grassley’s newsletter:

Growing and supporting rural Iowa is one of the central issues of the 2019 session.  House Republicans have been working hard to give their communities the opportunity to grow and thrive in the 21st century.  This effort will be a central focus of the Fiscal Year 2020 budget in health care and education.

HEALTH CARE
Access to health care is an issue that all communities are facing.  For rural communities, the challenge of maintaining that access is even more challenging.  To help meet this challenge, House Republicans are moving forward with the following initiatives:

Maintaining Access to Health Care through Iowa’s Critical Access Hospitals Iowa’s 82 critical access hospitals, located in smaller communities across the state, provide critical, initial care in their towns and counties and are linked to a larger hospital system for more extensive care.  House Republicans are proposing to restore Medicaid payment rates to these hospitals to 101% of costs, with a cost settlement process at the end of the year.  Hospital administrators have told members that the best thing the Legislature could do for rural health care was to restore this process. House Republicans are making that a key priority by committing $1.5 million from the General Fund to this.

Ensuring Access to Nursing Homes throughout Iowa for lower-income residents In many rural communities, the local nursing home is a critical part of the local health care system.  With the growing number of nursing home residents whose care is covered by Medicaid, nursing homes are facing tighter operating budgets.  To help ensure Iowans have access to this important level of care in their local communities, House Republicans are planning to provide an additional $19 million of General Fund dollars to Iowa’s Medicaid program to increase the daily nursing home payment rate.

More Health Care Providers in Rural Iowa
To help more rural communities attract doctors, House Republicans have a multi-step plan.  The first part of this effort was passing House File 532 to help deal with medical residencies.  In terms of funding, they will provide an additional $400,000 for medical residency programs and dedicating these funds to those who will practice in rural Iowa.  Also, House Republicans will increase funding for the Rural Primary Loan Repayment program by $300,000.  This program helps communities attract and retain newly-licensed doctors.

Improving Health & Safety in Rural Iowa
House Republicans are proposing increases for two programs that help disabled farmers and work to improve farm safety.  The Agriculture & Natural Resources budget will increase funding for services to disabled farmers and will help preserve the Iowa Center for Agriculture Safety and Health (ICASH).

EDUCATION & WORKFORCE
Growing Iowa’s rural communities will also require a workforce with needed skills.  Acquiring these skills can happen on a number of levels, in high school, community colleges, or four-year colleges and universities.  House Republicans are addressing these issues in the following ways:

Committing to Future Ready Iowa
Ensuring that Iowans have the job skills needed by Iowa’s employers is one of the biggest issues facing this state.  House Republicans have committed to fund implementation of the Future Ready Iowa program that was created last year.  This will include $15 million for assisting community college students with the Last Dollar Scholar program and $1 million for  helping those who started four-year degrees in certain fields to go back to college and finish them.

Increasing Access to Job Skills in High School
Acquiring the necessary technical skills for many in-demand jobs can happen at the high school level through the state’s Career Technical Education program.  This provides funds to school districts for training programs.  House Republicans are providing an addition $355,823 to assist more schools establish these programs.

Continuing Iowa’s Investment in Community Colleges, Tuition Grants and All-Iowa Opportunity Scholarships
Increasing support for Iowans seeking higher education will be part of the FY 2020 budget beyond what is included in Future Ready Iowa.  Increases for all three legs of Iowa’s higher education system will be part of the House Republican budget.   Community Colleges will receive an additional $7 million in FY 2020 under the House Republican plan, and the Iowa Tuition Grant program (which provides aid to those attending Iowa’s independent colleges) will get a $1.1 million increase.  The budget also will provide additional funding for the All-Iowa Opportunity Scholarships, which help Iowa residents attend the three state universities