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09-23-2020
What a week!
 
Gender rights icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg passing and now Republican efforts to ramrod a new Supreme Court justice in the next five weeks before the November 3 election. The raw power grab and Republican hypocrisy is par for the course and not unexpected.
 
The big surprise just around the corner for the American people is the destruction of the Affordable Care Act and your protections for pre-existing conditions, overturning of Roe V. Wade and the control of women’s bodies and lives, the erosion of worker rights, and dismantling of environmental protections of our air and water.
 
Corporate interests celebrate while our Supreme Court will suffer great, long-lasting damage from this drunken power lust.
 
Voting begins on October 5. Don’t despair. Get out the vote!
 
--Joe
 
 
 

I planted four new trees this week. Norway Sprue, Blue Spruce and White Pine.
 
 
 

CENSUS: TIME IS RUNNING OUT

 

 
September 30 marks the last chance for Iowans to respond to the census on their own, or for census workers to knock on doors.
 
The U.S. Census Bureau is committed to counting every person, counting them once and counting them in the right place. However, states with larger rural areas are lagging in response rates and could be disproportionately impacted.
 
A lot of funding for communities depends on our census count, so let’s help ensure it’s as accurate as possible. Check with folks you know. If they haven’t taken the census yet, send them to 2020census.gov to take the quick survey.
 
 
 

VOTING: ARE YOU READY?

 

 

Johnson County Voters!

 
We’re just six weeks from the 2020 election. Are you ready to vote?
 
Johnson County early voting for the November presidential election begins at 8 AM on Monday, October 5. Voting will be at the parking ramp north of the Johnson County Health and Human Services Building, 855 S. Dubuque St. The entrance to drive up voting will be off Clinton Street. Voting hours will be 8 AM to 5 PM weekdays through Monday, November 2.
 

Drive up voting will also be open the following weekend hours:

Saturday, October 24, 8 AM - 5 PM
Sunday, October 25, 10 AM - 4 PM
Saturday, October 31, 8 AM - 4 PM
Sunday, November 1, 10 AM - 4 PM
 

The following satellite voting sites will be available:

Clear Creek Amana West Campus Building
331 W Marengo Rd, Tiffin
Monday, October 12, 7 AM to 7 PM
 
Swisher Public Library
72 2nd St SE
Tuesday, October 13, 2 - 6 PM
 
Coralville Public Library
1401 5th St., Coralville
Wednesday, October 14, Thursday, October 15 and Friday, October 16, 10 AM - 3 PM
Saturday, October 17, 10 AM - 4 PM
Sunday, October 18, 10 AM - 2 PM
 
Solon Public Library
320 W Main St
Wednesday, October 14, 2 - 6 PM
 
North Liberty Community Library
520 W Cherry St.
Saturday, October 17, 11 AM - 3 PM
Sunday, October 18, 1 - 4 PM
 
Iowa City Public Library
123 S. Linn St.
Monday, October 19 through Friday, October 23, 10 AM - 4 PM
Saturday, October 24, 10 AM - 5 PM
Monday, October 26 through Thursday, October 29, 11 AM - 6 PM
Friday, October 30, 10 AM - 6 PM
Saturday, October 31, 10 AM - 4 PM
 
Iowa Memorial Union
125 N. Madison St., Iowa City, Hubbard Lounge
Monday, October 19 through Friday, October 23, 9 AM – 3 PM
 
 

Comprehensive election and voting information

 
Check out activateiowa.org/how-to-vote
 
Make a plan to vote to eliminate last-minute confusion and ensure you know your options:
  • Decide how to vote (by mail or in-person).
  • Decide when to vote (early or on Election Day).
  • Decide where to vote (at a polling place or the county auditor’s office).
 
 

Voting after a criminal conviction

 
Most Iowans who have a felony conviction are now eligible to vote. You can vote if:
  • You have discharged your sentence, meaning you aren’t incarcerated for a felony, or on probation, parole, supervised release or subject to a special sentence.
  • You were not convicted of felony under Iowa Code Chapter 707. If you were, you must apply to have your voting rights restored through the Iowa Governor's office.
  • You still owe fines, fees or restitution. You must pay those debts, but they aren’t tied to your ability to vote.
 
Get complete details at aclu-ia.org/en/can-i-vote-iowa-after-criminal-conviction.
 
 
 

COVID UPDATES

 

 
Iowa remains in the COVID “red zone” for new cases per 100,000 population and for a test positivity rate above 10%. We continue to have one of the highest coronavirus rates in the country—higher than most densely populated states—with 62% of counties showing moderate or high levels of community transmission.
 
Twenty-four counties have rolling 14-day average positivity rates greater than 15%, including Johnson at 22.54%.
 
For months, the White House coronavirus task force has called on Iowa to do more to contain COVID-19, including urging a statewide mask mandate and expanding testing and contact tracing. Without taking more aggressive steps to contain the virus, Iowa may be in for a long haul.
 
Please continue to take preventive measures to protect yourself and your loved ones:
  • Wear a mask in public
  • Keep your distance from others
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Stay home when sick
 
 

Is Governor misusing COVID funds?

 
Instead of using funds that are desperately needed to provide relief to hard-working Iowans and closed or struggling businesses, Governor Reynolds is diverting coronavirus relief funding for other purposes.
 
A report by Bleeding Heartland uncovered public documents showing that Reynolds directed that $448,449 in CARES Act funding cover salaries and benefits for staff already working in her office.
 
The diversion is even more puzzling because the Legislature approved and the Governor signed legislation to appropriate more than $4.6 million to cover the cost of running the Governor’s office – including salaries and benefits – over the past two years.
 
What did the Governor do with the extra money? For the past six months, none of the documents released to the public and legislators contained any information about this diversion of funds.
 
The State Auditor and the Legislature’s State Government Oversight committees need to investigate. At a time when the number of jobless Iowans is through the roof and many Iowa businesses are hurting because of the pandemic, Iowa taxpayers should have confidence that federal COVID relief funds—taxpayer dollars—are being used properly.
 
 

Federal eviction moratorium

 
The federal government has issued a residential eviction moratorium that prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent through December 31. The Iowa Legal Aid website has details on how to take advantage of the moratorium, including how to provide the necessary “declaration” to a landlord.
 
 

Student loan relief

 
“Summer” is a student loan advisory service that helps borrowers save on and simplify their loan repayment by finding, comparing and enrolling in loan assistance and forgiveness programs. Borrowers who’ve experienced a significant reduction in income could be eligible for a monthly payment as low as $0 by enrolling in a federal Income-Driven Repayment plan.
 
The Iowa Attorney General is partnering with Summer, which allows Iowans to access its digital platform for free and get customized recommendations. Go to meetsummer.org/IA/.
 
 

Capturing history as it happens

 
The State Historical Society of Iowa has preserved and shared Iowa history since 1857. The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest example of its efforts.
 
According to the Iowa History blog, it’s important for future generations that we “document and preserve the images, artifacts and stories that will help them understand the tragedies and disruption this pandemic has brought to our way of life.”
 
Iowans are invited to submit physical and digital artifacts related to the pandemic's impact on work, school, family traditions and everyday life in Iowa. Find out how to submit an item.
 
 
 

DERECHO UPDATE

 

 

Secretarial disaster designation

 
The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture recently approved a Secretarial disaster declaration for 18 counties, including Johnson, and 24 contiguous counties.
 
Farmers in these counties may be eligible for special assistance through the Farm Service Agency, including emergency loans. Farmers have eight months from the disaster declaration to apply.
 
 
 

NEWS YOU CAN USE

 

State Park Volunteer Day is September 26

 

 
In celebration of the Iowa state park centennial in 2020, Iowans are invited to lend a hand at volunteer events on Saturday, September 26.
 
Volunteer projects will focus on caring for parks after a busy summer season, along with clean-up efforts at parks impacted by August storm damage. This includes removing tree limbs and debris, litter pick-up, staining or painting, planting trees, clearing trails and more.
 
Those interested in volunteering can find locations and opportunities at iowadnr.gov/volunteer.
 
 

High school students can apply to be a page

 

 
Each year, high school juniors and seniors work as pages at the Iowa Capitol during the legislative session, which runs from January through April. This is an opportunity to learn firsthand about state government, work with elected officials and see how ideas for a better Iowa become law.
 
Job duties include responding to requests from legislators and staff, assisting during committee meetings, and distributing and organizing materials and supplies. Pages are paid, and may also arrange for academic credit with their high school.
 
The application deadline for the 2021 session is October 9. Get complete details and an application at legis.iowa.gov/careers
 
 

Medicaid members can change MCOs

 
A majority of current IA Health Link and Hawki members can change their Managed Care Organization for any reason through October 30. However, members are not being reassigned and do not have to change MCOs if they don't want to. Get complete details at dhs.iowa.gov/iahealthlink/open-choice.
 
 

Enter your state park photos in national contest

 

 
If you enjoy photographing Iowa state parks, consider entering your photos in America’s State Parks 2020 Photo Contest. You could win prizes, earn national recognition for entries, and be featured in calendars and other publications.
 
Photo categories include friends and family, camping, scenic and seasons, wildlife and activities. Entry deadline is October 31. Visit stateparksphotocontest.org to learn more and submit photos.
 
 

New tool simplifies Medicare plan selection

 
Medicare open enrollment runs October 15 to December 7. The National Council on Aging’s online tool, My Medicare Matters, can help in choosing a plan. Visitors can take an assessment to evaluate their health coverage needs, review plan options and estimated costs, or speak with a Medicare agency partner.
 
 

Free seedlings for communities impacted by EAB

 

 
Iowa has confirmed the emerald ash borer in 73 of its 99 counties, including Johnson. The DNR is awarding communities in these counties up to 200 free native hardwood and evergreen seedlings from the State Forest Nursery. The seedlings can be planted on public property or distributed to residents for planting on private property.
 
Any city or public organization can complete the grant application at iowadnr.gov/Portals/idnr/uploads/forms/5420991.pdf.
 
Learn more about the emerald ash borer’s impact on Iowa at iowadnr.gov/conservation/forestry/forest-health/emerald-ash-borer.
 
 

New IowaWORKS mobile app

 
Iowa Workforce Development has launched a mobile app that allows Iowans to search for jobs on the go. It’s an extension of the employment services system at IowaWORKS.gov, which helps job seekers update their resumes, search for jobs, and communicate with IowaWORKS staff. Download the app through Google Play or the Apple App Store.
 
New users can set up an account, and current users can log in with their existing IowaWORKS.gov account information. Learn more about the mobile app.
 
 

Low-income telephone and Internet assistance

 

 
Access to phone and broadband services provides Iowans with a connection to emergency personnel, health care, community resources, and family and friends. Low-income residents who need assistance paying for monthly voice or broadband bills are encouraged to apply to the federal Lifeline program.
 
Consumers may qualify to save up to $9.25 per month. Learn more about program eligibility at iub.iowa.gov/consumers/lifeline-telephone-assistance-program.
 
 
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