Important COVID-19 Updates & Resources
As you may have already heard, there were some significant developments this week that may impact your family and neighbors.
First, the Governor extended school and businesses closures until April 30. The extension is based on data predicting the peak of the infection in Iowa to happen later this month.
Second, weekly unemployment claims rose to 58,453, which is the highest number in Iowa history. It shows the economic pain coronavirus is having on our economy as well as the importance of slowing the spread of the virus as quickly as possible so Iowans can get back to work.
Third, a new hotline has been established to help Iowans experiencing legal issues due to COVID-19. Free legal advice is available by calling (800) 332-0419.
Fourth, unemployment benefits are now available to more Iowans and include those who are self-employed, independent contractors, and nonprofit employees.
Finally, I joined the call urging Governor Reynolds to implement a statewide shelter-in-place order. As state leaders, I believe it’s important to send a clearer message to Iowans to stay home and prevent the spread of COVID-19. I think it’s the right step to flatten the curve, save lives, and get Iowans back to work quickly.
Please continue to practice social distancing and stay home as much as possible. Limiting contact with others is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones. I am very grateful to our essential workers, including health care workers, delivery drivers, grocery store workers, and emergency personnel for being on the front lines keeping Iowans safe and healthy.
The Iowa Legislature has extended its 30 day suspension until April 30. However, we currently do not know when the Legislature will be in a position to return to Des Moines and conclude the session. In the meantime, I will continue to be at home answering your questions and listening to you.
State Public Health Emergency Declaration until April 30
The Governor has now extended her State Public Health Emergency Declaration until April 30. Restaurants, bars, fitness centers, swimming pools, salons, spas, barbershops, tattoo establishments, theaters, casinos and other non-essential retails establishments are being asked to stay closed until April 30. Many restaurants bars and retail establishments are offering carryout, delivery or curbside pick-up.
Iowa Schools Closed until April 30
Iowa schools will be closed until April 30. Local school districts are developing plans now and parents will hear more from school leaders on local plans.
Help for Those with Job Loss Due to Coronavirus
Iowans displaced from work because of COVID-19 are eligible for unemployment benefits after changes were made to help those affected by the outbreak. If you are laid off due to COVID-19 or have to stay home to self-isolate, care for family members or due to illness related to COVID-19, you can apply for unemployment benefits.
Normal work search requirements under unemployment insurance are waived during the disaster; if displaced you will not be required to try and interview or find work while the outbreak is ongoing.
Employees laid off due COVID-19 will no longer be required to use all paid leave prior to being eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. Prior to the change employees were required to exhaust all benefits before making a claim. The change is not retroactive and will apply to claims made after March 29, 2020.
To apply visit: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/file-claim-unemployment-insurance-benefits
Help for Iowa Small Businesses
Iowa small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 have many resources still available to them including tax deferrals, the targeted small business sole operator fund, the Federal Cares Act, and SBA disaster assistance loans. To learn more visit: www.iowabusinessrecovery.com
Stimulus Checks through Iowa Cares Act
The United States Congress has now passed a Federal Coronavirus Relief Bill—also known as the CARES Act. The $2.2 trillion package includes help for individuals and small businesses.
Stimulus payments directly to Iowans will begin in April with $1,200 for individuals ($2,400 married couples) and $500 per child under 17.
There is an Iowa Cares Act rebate calculator so that you can see how much you’ll be receiving at https://taxfoundation.org/federal-coronavirus-relief-bill-cares-act/
Grab and Go Lunches for Students
The USDA’s Summer Food Service Program has 303 approved Grab and Go meal sites in Iowa to provide meals and snacks to children who might go without while schools are closed due to COVID-19. To find a pick up location go to: https://educateiowa.gov/documents/summer-food-service-program/2020/03/approved-sponsors-provide-meals-during-covid-19
Covid-19 Price Gouging and Scams
Online scammers are taking advantage of Iowan’s fears surrounding the Coronavirus by setting up websites or social media posts for fake products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts. The Attorney General’s office has created a new form for Iowa consumers to report price gouging, as the number of reports rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers can complete the form on the attorney general’s website, which can be found here: https://www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov/for-consumers/file-a-consumer-complaint/online-price-gouging-complaint-form
For complaints not involving price gouging, consumers can continue to use the Attorney General’s standard complaint form. Iowans can contact the Consumer Protection Division at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 515-281-5926 (toll-free number outside of the Des Moines area: 888-777-4590) for more information.
Free Assistance with Legal Issues
A free hotline has been set up by Iowa Legal Aid to provide Iowans some support that may be facing legal issues during the COVID-19 outbreak, including eviction, denial of unemployment benefits, employment issues, identity theft and more. The COVID-19 Legal Information Hotline at 1-800-332-0419. Callers should leave a message, and Iowa Legal Aid staff will call them back to screen them for eligibility. Those who are eligible for Iowa Legal Aid’s free legal services will be connected with an attorney; those who are not eligible for free services will be referred to volunteer lawyers with the Iowa State Bar Association. For more information go to: https://www.iowalegalaid.org/resource/2020-coronavirus-outbreak-what-you-need-to-know
LIHEAP Application Period Extended to May 31, 2020
Due to the Covid-19 virus and the State of Iowa Public Health Disaster Emergency, the Iowa Department of Human Rights, Division of Community Action Agencies has extended the application period for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) through May 31, 2020. To apply for assistance visit: https://humanrights.iowa.gov/dcaa/liheap.
HELPFUL LINKS WITH MORE INFORMATION
CARES ACT FEDERAL LEGISLATION: A new summary of recently passed federal legislation and its impact on Iowa will be continuously updated and is available here: https://tinyurl.com/sg2hluc
GOVERNOR’S OFFICE UPDATES: For the latest updates from the Iowa Governor’s office on COVID-19: https://coronavirus.iowa.gov
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH UPDATES: For the latest updates on coronavirus and to learn more about prevention efforts, go to the Iowa Dept. of Public Health at https://idph.iowa.gov/Emerging-Health-Issues/Novel-Coronavirus
COVID-19 PUBLIC HOTLINE: For Iowans with questions about COVID-19, a public hotline is open 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES: State officials launched a new website to connect healthy Iowans who want to volunteer in their communities with nonprofits: http://volunteeriowa.galaxydigital.com/