Thursday we heard from our Governor that the COVID-19 infection curve is slowly beginning to flatten in Iowa, but health officials caution that Iowa is not quite out of danger.
Iowans should focus on increasing compliance with the social distancing guidelines she has emphasized, including staying home whenever possible. We need to focus on what we can do individually to stop the spread of the coronavirus and less about whether the Governor will have to order further restrictions to fight the outbreak.
In this unprecedented time, the state is finding its way through the pandemic in its own way under the common sense leadership of Governor Reynolds. Reading through the online comments of our Governor’s addresses, it continues to amaze me how many “experts” there are, commenting and armchair-quarterbacking from the comfort of their house. But, they’re doing this without the weight of the entire state and country crashing in on their every decision. Our Governor’s actions taken so far have been backed by NIAID Director, Dr. Fauci, who has advised six Presidents on domestic and global health issues for decades. So, I’ll continue to trust their input and guidance.
I’ve received some questions on policy pieces we worked on before the sudden legislature recess. When we left the capitol on March 17th, we planned to restart the 2020 legislative session on Monday, the 13th of April. The twenty-three member Legislative Council met by phone earlier this week and made the decision to push our start date back to May 1st. They also made clear their target date for a restart could be pushed back and some policy priorities may have to wait until 2021.
When lawmakers do reconvene in the state capitol, they’ll have to pass a plan for next year’s state budget. Right now it’s too early to estimate the full impact the pandemic might have on state tax collections and our budget. I’m grateful that our Economic Emergency Fund is full and that we resisted spending the ending balance. Iowa entered this crisis with a strong budget position and it will help us maintain a more stable environment as we exit this crisis.
A little bit about the Regional Medical Coordination Centers that have recently been established across the state. The centers are broken into six regions and they are weighted and scored with things like age, hospitalization and long-term care outbreaks etc. Officials say a “shelter-in-place” order would require at least 10 points in a given region. Adair, Guthrie and Dallas are part of Region 1 and Cass is part of Region 4. Each region abides by a 12-point system to determine whether a “shelter-in-place” order should be issued.
We continue to work on collecting and providing enough Personal Protective Equipment but unfortunately having enough PPE remains an issue in the state.
Iowa Workforce Development says there were more than 67,000 first time unemployment claims filed from March 29th through April 4th. IWD paid a total $27,565,232 of unemployment insurance benefits last week. Most of the claims are being paid in seven to ten days from the time of their initial filing.
Also important to remember, You cannot voluntarily quit your job in an effort to obtain the weekly benefit or unemployment benefits. Voluntary quits are a disqualifier for unemployment benefits. You must be laid off, in a temporary layoff, or in reduced hours to qualify for unemployment insurance.
The federal relief act provides an additional $600 for those on regular and coronavirus unemployment who qualify and we anticipate these payments will begin to go out next week. And once they do start to go out IWD will post an update on their website notifying people.
A reporter recently asked what I’ve been up to during the quarantine. Well, as the legislature is on hold, we’ve been going over the budget and making sure we are keeping everyone informed via our social media and websites. On the Sorensen Studios front, I’m working in the art studio on a few projects and getting ready to repair the Dallas County Freedom Rock (hit by drunk driver last year). Obviously, I can’t have the usual visitors as we are social distancing, but it’s good to be able to stay a little bit on schedule. Maria and I have both become reluctant teachers, but I think we are managing to keep up with the daily homework schedule.
There is a lot to be thankful this Easter weekend including all those doing their part to help: our essential workers, those giving blood, providing grocery shopping or meal deliveries to our aged neighbors, teachers keeping up with their kids, and of course practicing social distancing and good cleanliness habits.
I am honored to represent House District 20 at the Capitol and at home. To you folks in Adair, Guthrie, Dallas and Cass Counties, thank you for allowing me to serve you and be your voice in Des Moines and remember… Our Liberties We Prize And Our Rights We Will Maintain!