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In what would have been our twelfth week of the legislative session, I have been home talking with you on the phone and reading your emails and messages. Much of our time is also spent working with Governor Kim Reynolds and leaders across the state to slow the spread of COVID-19 and limit the damage to businesses and families in Iowa.

On April 2, Governor Reynolds ordered Iowa schools closed until the end of the month. Legislative leaders also decided it was best we further suspend the session until April 30, following the guidance of the Centers of Disease Control and Iowa Department of Public Health.

As we continue to work through this pandemic, please know there are many resources available to you if you need them. The 24/7 hotline for all COVID-19 related questions can be reached at 2-1-1- or 1-800-244-7431. Additionally, a legal information hotline for COVID-19 related legal matters, like eviction, the denial of unemployment benefits, or employer-employee issues, is available at 1-800-332-0419.

Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Workforce Development continue to update their website with information, especially with the recent passage of the CARES Act at the federal level. If you are looking for information or updates, I encourage you to visit their websites at www.iowabusinessrecovery.com and www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/covid-19. The Iowa Department of Education also released a number of resources for families to support learning at home during this period. Those can be found at https://educateiowa.gov/pk-12/resources-support-learning-during-covid-19.

I’d like to take a moment to thank all those who have been working during this pandemic. Not only the nurses, doctors, and health care workers who are helping those who are sick, but people who continue to work to ensure Iowans still have access to food, medicine, and other essential items, while many are working from home.

Iowans have always been strong, especially in the face of difficulty and challenge. All over our state, Iowans have been stepping up to help each other and bring each other comfort. Facing uncertainty is hard, but we are all in this together. We will get through this, and when we do, our state will be even stronger.

Budget Issues

A big job that we have left to do is to pass a budget for the coming 2021 fiscal year. You may recall that we have already passed the K-12 budget for the coming 2021 fiscal year. We have not yet addressed the rest of the budget. Among the bigger items to be dealt with are Human Services, the big bulk of which is Medicaid, and the Justice Systems budget that includes, among other things, the courts, prisons, public safety including the highway patrol and DCI, the attorney general and the law enforcement academy. We must also appropriate for the regents schools and the community colleges, the non K-12 part of the education budget.

Because of our responsible budgeting for the current fiscal year, we should have enough revenue to finish out the current fiscal year. Obviously, with the slowdown of the economy, our revenue will likely not be as high as was predicted before the current crisis.

Fortunately, we did not spend up to the legal limit as some advocated. The rainy day fund, including the economic emergency fund, was full and we had a surplus from the last fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2019.

Author: Julian Garrett