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08-02-2020
Last week, Governor Reynolds and Lt. Governor Adam Gregg provided more guidance to local schools on restarting this fall. Her plan is grossly inadequate and puts our kids and school staff at unnecessary risk. Below is the statement my Senate colleague Herman Quirmbach issued in response.
 
There is so much we still do not know about how the virus moves between kids and adults. Here is a link to some of the research on this topic.
 
We should proceed with great caution. We should follow the lead of local school boards and school staff in deciding how best to bring our schools back.
 
The Governor should focus on helping schools get the PPE, testing and contact tracing they will need in the new few weeks. The Governor should also issue a statewide face covering order to help reduce community spread. Unfortunately, she continues to follow the lead of President Trump in her approach to managing the pandemic. Her approach is resulting in avoidable deaths and illness.
 
 

 
 

Too little & too late for Iowa schools and parents

 

July 30 statement by Sen. Herman Quirmbach, ranking member on the Senate Education Committee

“Governor Reynolds’s effort to force schools to open in person is putting Iowa school children at unacceptable risk. Just weeks from schools opening, the Governor’s belated announcements today do too little to protect our kids.
 
“Governor Reynolds told local schools today that they can’t even ask to move the school to fully online learning until 15% to 20% of the community is testing positive and 10% of the kids are already out sick. That means that in a classroom of 20, three or four students on average are testing positive and two are already home sick. Schools need the authority to move more quickly to protect students, teachers, and staff.
 
“Moreover, Governor Reynolds did not commit today to notifying the parents of all the students in a classroom if a student in that class tests positive. The privacy of individual students must be respected, of course, but parents have a right to be notified that a positive COVID-19 case exists in their child’s classroom. The Governor hasn’t said they would be told.
 
“Governor Reynolds is continuing to ignore the advice of health care experts to adopt a statewide mask mandate and other mitigation efforts. Her rhetoric about requiring schools to reopen despite the health care risks is eerily similar to her tragic efforts to keep meatpacking plants open at all costs.
 
“National COVID-19 deaths have shot past 150,000, and Iowa is listed as a ‘red zone’ state by the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Still, the Governor is continuing to ignore science, common sense, and the health and safety of Iowans.
 
“Rather than repeat the mistakes other ‘red zone’ states, Governor Reynolds should focus her energy on providing widespread COVID-19 testing and robust contact tracing in all 99 counties. Only then will she regain the trust of Iowa parents, teachers, and students.”
 
 
 

SUPPORT IC SMALL BUSINESSES




What habits have you changed in recent months as you strive to stay safe and healthy? And what adjustments are your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors making?
 
All of us have been impacted by the pandemic in some way, especially small businesses. Many have closed or shortened their hours; laid off staff; struggled to get adequate supplies; scaled back their products and services; and lost customers, patients, employees and business they counted on.
 
Many of our small businesses are now taking a cautious approach to reopening in an effort to protect the health and safety of their customers and employees. These changes and challenges can take a toll.
 
The U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey, conducted over nine weeks during the COVID pandemic, shows the ongoing stress Iowa businesses have faced as the pandemic prevents them from returning to normal levels of operation.
 
But there are things we can do to help.
 
Bobby Hansen, regional director for the Better Business Bureau Cedar Rapids office, recently shared some tips in the Gazette for supporting local small businesses as the pandemic continues. His recommendations include:
 
  • Buying gift cards for later use. Contact your favorite businesses, or check their websites and social media accounts to see what’s available.
     
  • Shop local online, and use curbside pickup if you aren’t comfortable venturing out.
     
  • Write a positive online review to help your favorite businesses rank higher in search engines and listing services.
     
  • Introduce great local businesses to a broader audience by liking and sharing their information on social media.
 
Buyers and sellers should check out Shop Iowa. This Internet marketplace provides a centralized online presence for Iowa retailers. Shop from the safety of your home, knowing every purchase goes to a brick and mortar shop.
 
Know a retail business with products to sell? They can get an online store up and running for free at shopiowa.com/sell.
 
 
 

COVID UPDATES

 

Request your vote-by-mail ballot

 
There are fewer than 100 days until the November election. Many Iowans have already requested a ballot to vote by mail after seeing how safe, quick and convenient it was for Iowa’s June primary.
 
A new AARP poll shows Iowans 50 and older support making it easier to vote by mail. Highlights of the poll include:
 
  • 69% of older Iowa registered voters approved of the Secretary of State’s move to send vote-by-mail ballot applications to all registered voters ahead of June primary.
     
  • 63% support their county auditor sending vote-by-mail ballot applications to all registered voters in their county ahead of November’s general election.
     
  • 81% of respondents said they did not want to see voting by mail restricted.
     
  • More Iowans 50 and older plan to vote by mail in the general election than plan to vote in person on Election Day.
 
Read the complete AARP poll results.
 

3 steps to vote by mail

Let’s all plan ahead for our health, safety and civic duty. Request your vote-by-mail ballot today for the November 3 election, and encourage others to do the same.
 
  1. Register to vote. Make sure you are registered to vote at sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterinformation.
     
  2. Get a vote-by mail request form. Download the form at sos.iowa.gov/elections/pdf/absenteeballotapp.pdf. Fill it out carefully and sign it.
     
  3. Return your request form. Mail or deliver your vote-by-mail request form to your county auditor. Find their contact information at sos.iowa.gov/elections/auditors/auditorslist.html.
 
 

Mask up to stop the spread

 


With rapidly increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, a new outreach campaign asks Iowans to follow key public health measures, such as wearing a cloth face covering when out and about.
 
Iowa’s medical community is encouraging the state to take it a step further. On Monday, the Iowa Medical Society and a coalition of health care organizations called on Gov. Reynolds to issue a statewide mask mandate to curb the spread of COVID-19.
 
"A statewide mask order is the surest way to ensure that our schools, businesses, and health care facilities are able to reopen and stay open, and that our medical practices are able to continue to offer a full array of care for Iowa patients," their request states.
 
Other measures that offer a strong defense against the virus include:
  • Keeping your distance from others in public places
  • Washing your hands frequently
  • Staying home when sick
 
These simple steps not only protect you, but also protect those who come into contact with you.
 
The more we do now, the sooner we can safely reopen our state.
 
 

Concerned about eviction? Legal Aid can help

 

 
Coronavirus-related eviction moratoriums are ending. If you are concerned about possible eviction, contact Iowa Legal Aid. Their experts can guide you to available resources and help you understand your rights and responsibilities relating to eviction.
 
To apply for Legal Aid’s services, go to iowalegalaid.org/resource/applying-for-help-from-iowa-legal-aid, or call their application line at 800-532-1275 between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, or 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
 
 

Help for small businesses facing utility shutoff

 
The Iowa Economic Development Authority has launched a Small Business Utility Disruption Prevention Program to provide short-term relief to eligible small businesses and nonprofits struggling to pay their utility bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The program offers grants up to $7,500 to be applied to utility bills. Funding comes from the federal CARES Act.
 
Applications will be accepted through August 21 or until funding is depleted. For complete details and to apply, visit iowabusinessrecovery.com.
 
Questions? E-mail energyrecovery@iowaeda.com or call 855-300-2342.
 
 

Assistance for non-English speakers



 
  • EMBARC – Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center—is a coalition of 30 refugee groups and organizations. They’ve started a COVID-19 Crisis Response hotline to assist Iowans in 10 languages. Help includes filing for unemployment, making medical appointments, getting food assistance, understanding eviction rights and more.
     
  • Iowa International Center (515-282-8269, ext. 5) offers assistance in 180+ languages, including emergency interpretation. A housing hotline helps landlords and limited-English-speaking tenants communicate better during rent and lease negotiations, maintenance notifications and repairs, lease terminations, or whenever clear communication is essential.
     
  • Iowa Mortgage Help (877-622-4866) provides statewide referrals, foreclosure intervention, and negotiation and mediation services. The website is available in Spanish.
 
 

Pandemic food assistance cards delayed




In my last newsletter, I mentioned that Pandemic Food Assistance Benefits cards were being mailed out to Iowa families with children who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. The Iowa Department of Human Services recently notified me of a delay in getting some of the cards out.
 
If you are expecting a card but haven’t received it yet, you should get it in the mail by August 5. Cards will arrive in white envelopes addressed with the child’s name from an Austin, Texas, return address. The cards inside will be white, with black font, with IOWA P-EBT printed at the top, and will bear the name of the eligible child.
 
For complete details, go to dhs.iowa.gov/P-EBT.
 
 
 

NEWS YOU CAN USE

 

Apply for grant to expand broadband



 
Through August 5, Iowa is making available $50 million in federal CARES Act funding to increase Internet connectivity. Get complete details at ocio.iowa.gov/broadband-grants. E-mail questions to ociogrants@iowa.gov
 
 

Sales tax holiday




Iowa’s Annual Sales Tax Holiday is Friday, August 7, and Saturday, August 8. This is a good time to save on clothes and shoes. No state sales tax will be collected those days on most clothing and footwear, including on Internet sales. Get complete details: tax.iowa.gov/iowas-annual-sales-tax-holiday
 
 

REAP grants available

 
Through August 15, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is accepting applications for REAP's City Parks and Open Spaces and the County Conservation programs. This funding can be used for open space acquisition and preservation, or park expansion and enhancement. Get more information at iowadnr.gov/conservation/reap/reap-grants.
 
 

Have you taken the U.S. Census yet?

 
Iowans are doing a good job of responding to the 2020 census. So far, we have a 68.4% response rate.
 
Residents have until Oct. 31 to fill out the form on their own and turn it in by mail, phone or online. If you haven’t filled it in yet, now’s the time. You can do it in just a couple minutes at 2020census.gov.
 
Census takers will begin showing up at doors August 11. They’ll wear masks and carry badges and cellphones with the Census Bureau's logo on them.
 
Census data helps determine state representation in Congress, as well as funding for government programs.
 
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