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12-04-2020

Be Patient. Stay Apart. Wear a Mask. Live.

 
The pandemic is raging in Iowa. We have experienced a record week of COVID deaths. It is amazing how comfortable some people seem to be with all of these deaths.
 
On the day Iowa had a record 70 deaths this week, Governor Reynolds said things are going in the right direction. She’s wrong. Health experts tell us the worst is still coming. Her actions have resulted in preventable deaths. She continues to support Trump’s lying, fraudulent, crazy behavior. So here we are. YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN.
 
The vaccine is coming, but it will be months, not days or weeks, before it will be available to the general public. Be patient. Stay apart. Wear a mask everywhere. Save yourself and your family. Don’t let the virus out-smart you.
 
Here is an article written by the Gazette’s Todd Dorman on Iowa’s deadly pandemic leadership.
 
Iowa is making national news as an example of poor pandemic leadership.
 
Don’t miss this Prairie Light reading on Monday, December 7, 7:00 pm. Erin Brokovich will discuss her new book, Superman's Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can Do About It, in conversation with University of Iowa's Director of Graduate Studies in Civil and Environmental Engineering, David Cwiertny. Here is a link to register and details for this virtual reading on Monday.
 
 
 

PREPARING FOR THE 2021 SESSION

 

 
The 2021 legislative session gavels in on January 11. Many of the issues we’ll tackle—from the state budget to policy priorities—will be seen anew through the lens of a pandemic that dominated 2020.
 
Nearly all aspects of our lives—our jobs, schools and traditions—have changed as we try to manage the coronavirus and protect our families, workplaces and communities.
 
We certainly won’t flip a switch on January 1, but the new year will give us a chance to reset as we get to work on Iowa’s short-term and long-term needs:
  • Defeating the coronavirus
     
  • Learning from this year’s lessons and losses
     
  • Building back better on all fronts—jobs and economy, health care and safety nets, education and thriving communities.
 
I need your input. What ideas and concerns would you like me to bring to the table? What have you seen and learned over the last year that can help make Iowa even stronger than before?
 
The decisions we make in the upcoming legislative session will be pivotal in shaping our future and ensuring Iowa remains a great place to live, learn and work.
 
If you have experiences or ideas you’d like to share as I prepare for the 2021 session, please e-mail me at joe.bolkcom@legis.iowa.gov. I will continue to be a strong voice for you, and work to bring all Iowans together.
 
 
 

HOLIDAYS

 

 

Celebrate the holidays safely

 
This holiday season will be different as we balance our desire for traditional celebrations with current health and safety needs.
 
The safest holiday plans this year include:
  • Staying home to celebrate with your household and virtually.
     
  • Outdoor celebrations, which present fewer risks than indoor gatherings, especially if mask, distancing and sanitary protocols are followed.
 
For any get-together, public health experts recommend:
  • Shorter gatherings with fewer people to reduce the risks.
     
  • Driving rather than flying, if travel is necessary.
     
  • Asking attendees to get tested for COVID-19 prior to the event and then quarantining before seeing others.
     
  • Knowing local health and safety guidelines, including contact-tracing protocols and quarantine requirements.
 
For more on how to celebrate safely this holiday season, check out the CDC’s recommendations for Holiday Celebrations and Small Gatherings and the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Holiday Season Safety Tips.
 
 

Holiday Stress & Self-Care

 
To help Iowans during this unusual holiday season, NAMI Greater Des Moines, an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is offering free virtual courses that are open to everyone.
 
“Holiday Stress & Self-Care” is a one-hour session that includes practical ideas to manage the stresses of the holidays, tips for self-care, and how to find the support you need. Two sessions are being offered:  
 

Food assistance during the Holidays

 
Not getting enough nutritious food to eat can impact health, wellbeing and development. If you or someone you know needs food, here are a few resources and organizations that are prepared to help:  
 

Make a difference with holiday gift giving

 
Small businesses have been especially hard hit this year. Many have already gone under, and others are on the brink. You can help by shopping with Iowa businesses for your holiday gift giving.
 
There are lots of online shopping options from the comfort of home:
  • Know what you’re looking for? Check the websites and social media pages for your favorite local shops.
     
  • Unsure where to find something specific? Peruse area business directories.
     
  • Looking for ideas? Check out Shop Iowa, which brings together brick and mortar retail businesses from across the state into one online marketplace. It currently offers products from businesses in 79 counties.
 
Local online shopping options have expanded considerably to meet Iowans needs over the last year. You can browse, buy online, pickup from a nearby business, or have items shipped to your door—knowing your purchase is supporting Iowa families, businesses and communities that could really use the boost.
 
 
 

COVID UPDATES

 

 

Blood and plasma donors needed

 
Blood donors are needed as Iowa continues to see high numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Donations from Iowans who have recovered from COVID are especially in demand.
 
Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, which serves the Iowa City area, is helping identify those who may be eligible to provide convalescent plasma for critically ill COVID-19 patients. For more information, visit their website or call Mississippi Valley at 833-610-1025.
 
 

COVID-19 Testing

 
Coronavirus tests are available at  Test Iowa sites, Hy-Vee, Walgreens and other locations throughout Iowa. Anyone can get tested, but appointments fill up quickly. For more information about getting tested, to complete a COVID assessment and to schedule an appointment, go to:  
 

Vaccine on the horizon

 
News of COVID-19 vaccines has been encouraging. The CDC is developing vaccine distribution plans for when a vaccine is available.
 
Curious about when a vaccine will be rolled out? Who will be given priority to receive the vaccine? How long it will last? How much it will cost? 
 
Get the latest information from:  
 
 

FUNDING & AWARDS

 

Utility Bill Assistance Program – Deadline Dec. 4

 
The Residential Utility Disruption Prevention Program provides up to $2,000 towards electric, natural gas and water bills for those at risk of disconnection due to a COVID-19 related loss of income. Funding comes from the federal CARES Act.
 
To be eligible, you must have:
  • A primary Iowa residence with active residential utility accounts.
     
  • An unpaid utility bill balance or payment plan with their utility provider.
    An annual income that is 80% of the median family income, based on county and household size.
     
  • Been unable to pay utility bills between March 17 and October 31.
 
For additional information and to apply, visit iowahousingrecovery.com.
 
 

Eviction & Foreclosure Prevention Program – Deadline Dec. 4

 
The state's Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Program provides short-term relief to income-eligible renters and homeowners who are at risk of eviction or foreclosure.
 
Available assistance includes:
  • Rental assistance for up to four months, beginning with April 1 rent ($3,200 maximum). This assistance includes manufactures home rent and lot rent.
     
  • Mortgage payment assistance, beginning with April 1 payment ($3,000 maximum).
 
Get complete details at iowahousingrecovery.com or call 1-855-300-5885.
 
 

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.
 
 

MLK equality and service awards – Deadline Dec. 15

 

 
Iowa’s commission on the Status of African-Americans is seeking nominations for two awards that honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
  • MLK Achievement: Recognizes those who have demonstrated a commitment to helping others, cultural awareness, diversity, active community participation and promoting racial equality.
     
  • MLK Service Project: Recognizes individuals and organizations that have strengthened their community through service projects, such as mentoring, building and restoration initiatives, neighborhood safety, etc.
 
 

Community Connect Grants – Deadline Dec. 23

 
Community Connect, a program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is accepting grant applications to help provide broadband in rural, economically-challenged communities where service does not exist. Eligible applicants include organizations, Tribes, government entities, cooperatives, and for-profit or non-profit companies. Get complete details at rd.usda.gov/programs-services/community-connect-grants.
 
 

Iowa Habitat and Access Program

 
The Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP) is accepting applications from landowners interested in receiving technical assistance and financial incentives in exchange for allowing hunters to access their land from September 1 to May 31. This program through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources benefits landowners and wildlife, while expanding hunting opportunities.
 
 
 

PUBLIC INPUT

 

 

State Forest Action Plan – Deadline Dec. 11

 
The State Forest Action Plan is available for public comment. The plan is a comprehensive assessment of Iowa forests. It includes the status of forests in Iowa, recent trends and goals for the next decade. Read and comment on the plan at comment.iowa.gov/Notice/Details/StateForestPlan.
 
 

Statewide transportation planning – Deadline Dec. 31

 
The Iowa Department of Transportation is seeking comments on its effectiveness in cooperating with local officials on statewide transportation planning. The DOT’s draft cooperative process for working with non-metropolitan local officials can be found at iowadot.gov/localconsultation.
 
 
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