DES MOINES, Iowa – On Friday, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced additional measures the state was taking to alleviate economic hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Reynolds outlined several regulatory relief efforts enacted by an additional public health emergency declaration signed earlier that day.
- suspends penalties and interest related to the collection of property tax
- suspends evictions under Iowa’s landlord and tenant laws including manufactured homes and mobile home parks
- allows the sale, carry-out, and delivery of alcoholic beverages by bars and restaurants
- allows government at all levels to conduct open meetings by electronic means
- suspends additional regulations to ease the transportation of agricultural supplies and commodities, food, medical supplies, cleaning products, and other household goods on all highways in Iowa
“I do anticipate further refinements to be made in the days ahead. As we’re talking to business and industry or various agencies, we’re asking if there are regulatory issues that are prohibiting them from doing what they need to do, and so we’re looking at that on a daily basis. I fully understand the impact that these decisions have on Iowans and your daily lives. But the more that we do now on the front end, the sooner that we will get through this, and we hopefully can get our lives back to normal,” Reynolds said.
She noted later in the press conference that her administration has a team working on a relief package for small businesses.
Reynolds also announced one additional positive case of COVID-19, involving an Allamakee County resident who is between the ages of 41 to 60, bringing the state’s number of positive cases to 45. The State Hygienic Lab can now process 162 tests a day, and, as of noon on Friday, had supplies for 620 additional tests.
Health care providers also can send samples to national labs, and those labs will report positive results to the State Hygienic Lab daily. Currently, the state prioritizes testing for:
- hospitalized patients with a fever and respiratory failure and no alternative diagnosis,
- Iowans above the age of 60 who experience fever, cough or breathing difficulties, and underlying health conditions like heart, lung, kidney diseases or weakened immune systems,
- individuals with a fever or respiratory illness who live in dormitories or long term care, residential treatment or correctional facilities,
- and first responders and essential personnel with a fever and respiratory illness.
This order follows the Iowa Department of Revenue announcing Thursday an order signed by IDR Director Kraig Paulsen extending the filing and payment deadlines for income, franchise, and moneys and credits taxes with a due date on or after March 19, 2020, and before July 31, 2020, to a new deadline of July 31, 2020.
Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD), reported during the press conference that they had seen an “unprecedented” number of unemployment claims. She stated that they are receiving the same amount of claims daily that the department would typically receive during a busy month.
“We are working very hard to lessen the financial impact of a temporary loss of income due to COVID-19-related layoffs. If you are laid off due to COVID-19, if you need to stay home and care to self-isolate, or to care for family members or children due to illness related to COVID-19 or because of school and daycare closures, you can receive unemployment benefits provided you meet the other eligibility requirements,” she said.
Work search requirements for COVID-19 and pre-existing claims are waived, and work availability requirements for COVID-19 related claims are also waived. Townsend said that most Iowans would receive payment after seven to ten days after the initial claim.
She said employers’ accounts would not be charged as a result of COVID-19 claims, and fact-finding interviews for COVID-19 related unemployment claims are also waived.
Reynolds later explained that her administration is in discussions with hospitals to discuss the types of beds that are available and the kind of care they can provide, as well as the transportation of patients who may need ICU care who live in areas where it is unavailable. She also said they are in discussion with ventilator manufacturers to ensure there are enough available if required.
She also added that the state is looking at public-private partnerships to expand the number of tests that can be performed and processed.
Reynolds also added that she is not considering a shelter-in-place order like those seen in California, Illinois, and New York.
She said her decisions are made with data provided to her by the Iowa Department of Public Health in consultation with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. She also said conference calls with other governors are helpful.
Reynolds would not speculate on when the state would see a turnaround that some within the Trump administration have speculated would not happen until May.
“I am not going to make any projections on when this could potentially alleviate and things turn around. I just will continue to say, if we practice the 15-day-policies that the (Trump) administration put in place if we all do, what we should do and be responsible about our hygiene and our actions, I do believe that we can turn this around and start to return back to normal life,” she said.
Dustin Krutsinger, M.D, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb., doubts mitigation protocols will be able to be lifted after 15 days. He said the 15-day mitigation effort is “almost certainly not enough.”
“I would be shocked if we are in a position two weeks from now to lift the mitigation efforts,” he told Caffeinated Thoughts.
Caffeinated Thoughts asked the Reynolds administration if they would shift from mitigation (social distancing) to suppression efforts (widespread testing and isolating those who test positive) if this pandemic goes longer than expected or if the virus returns next fall and winter.
“There’s really no way to predict how long this will go on for. Testing capabilities continues to expand and those that are sick are supposed to self isolate. The governor will continue to monitor data to make informed decisions on how to move forward, closely adhere to CDC regulations, and hear from other governor’s about what’s happening in their state. She continues to engage with the President’s Coronavirus Task Force,” Pat Garrett, spokesperson for Governor Reynolds, told Caffeinated Thoughts.
He added the administration is having daily discussions about short-term and long-term plans, but did not specify what those plans could include.