Storm Recovery Relief Available to Iowans
Many Iowans are still recovering from the devastating Derecho that swept through Iowa earlier this month. A number of resources have now been made available to those affected by the storm.
Federal Individual Assistance for Linn County
Last week, Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual Assistance funding for Linn County was approved. Linn County disaster-affected homeowners, renters, and businesses may begin applying for assistance, including grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help recover from Derecho.
Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in Linn County can begin applying for assistance by calling 1-800-621-3362 or 1-800-462-7585 for TTY users. Users of 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS) may call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. CST, seven days a week, until further notice. Another option is registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov . A copy of FEMA’s full press release/declaration can be found here: https://www.fema.gov/press-release/20200820/president-donald-j-trump-amends-iowa-declaration.
Because of federal relief eligibility, Linn County residents are now no longer eligible for the State Individual Assistance Program and should apply under FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program. However, Disaster Case Management remains available to all impacted Iowans. For more information, please contact your local community action association or visit www.iowacommunityaction.org.
Federal Local Government and Nonprofit Assistance Available
Federal funding through FEMA’s Public Assistance program is now available to the state, eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations in Benton, Boone, Cedar, Clinton, Dallas, Jasper, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story and Tama counties on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and facility repair or replacement relating to severe storm damage. For more information relating to Public Assistance, please visit https://www.fema.gov/disasters.
Individual State Grants Available to Iowans
Eligible Iowans residing in Audubon, Benton, Boone, Cass, Cedar, Clarke, Clinton, Dallas, Greene, Guthrie, Grundy, Hardin, Iowa, Jackson, Jasper, Johnson, Jones, Madison, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story, Tama and Washington Counties may apply for relief under the Iowa Individual Assistance Program. This program provides up to $5,000 grants for households with (up to) 200% federal poverty level income or a $43,440 maximum annual income for a family of three. Grants are available for home/car repairs, food or clothing replacement, and temporary housing expenses. Those seeing reimbursement for storm recovery related expenses must provide original receipts and potential applicants have until September 25th to apply. Both the application and instructions can be found on the Iowa Department of Human Services website: https://dhs.iowa.gov/disaster-assistance-programs.
Food Replacement Program
Iowans who receive food assistance may request replacement of food destroyed during the storm or from losing power. Iowans now have until September 17 to apply. Fill out the form below and email to: ImagingCenter5@dhs.state.ia.us. Local food pantries are also available to help at foodpantries.org/iowa.
For a comprehensive list of disaster relief resources go to https://iowahouse.org/disaster-recovery-assistance-information/. If you need assistance accessing resources, find the DHS office nearest you, or call 1-877-347-5678.
Keeping Students Safe at School
As some Iowa kids head back to school this week, keeping students safe is at the top of everyone’s mind. Many schools are working to mitigate health concerns during the Governor’s in-person mandate on schools. Schools are encouraging social distancing of at least 6 feet by limiting passing times, having one-way hallways, reducing passengers on buses, and reducing class sizes while spacing desks. Many school districts have decided to start school later to lower the curve.
The Governor’s in-person instruction requirement can only be waived if there is a local outbreak with a 15% rate of infection and 10% student absenteeism. The Iowa Governor’s threshold, set at 15%, is the highest in the country. Minnesota’s threshold of infection rate to deem a school district unsafe to return to in-person learning is 1%.
Schools Sue the Governor over In-Person Mandate
Due to the Governor’s guidelines, Iowa schools are not able to decide what is best for their districts. Because of this, the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA), and the Iowa City and Des Moines School Districts have sued the Governor over her proclamations and SF 2310. They contend that local schools are required by the constitution to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens, the Governor is not protecting those rights and upholding the constitution, and her enforcement of SF 2310 is not constitutional.
They point to under SF 2310 it says “A Return to Learn plan is deemed to meet the 1080 hours of instruction requirement, regardless of the nature, location or medium of instruction.” The Governor is hanging her opinion on one word “primarily,” and her interpretation that it means 50.1% in-person instruction.
One enforcement tool that the Governor is using is that a school district can not go 100% online learning without her approval. And if they do, then they cannot have extracurricular sports of any kind, including sports, music or speech.
However, even the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and the Iowa High School Athletic Union (IHSAU) states in their Fall guidance, “The decision regarding whether or not to allow teams to participate, rests solely with local school districts.” Also, the IHSAU states that, “The general guideline is that a day of school is a day of school, regardless of how instruction is delivered.”
Colleges and Universities Start Classes
Iowa’s colleges and universities are holding in-person or a hybrid of online and in-person classes, with mask mandates in place on campus. Many students moved back into the dorms in the last two weeks. Iowa State University required COVID-19 testing prior to moving into the residence halls. There were 8,094 students tested with 175 positive cases.
Iowa Regent Universities have now been cut by over $26 million over the last four years, including $8 million by GOP leaders in charge of the Iowa House and Senate in June. With the pandemic and declining investments, state universities may have more difficult decisions to make moving forward.
Voting by Mail Remains Safest Way to Vote
As the COVID-19 virus shows no sign of slowing down, Iowans may need to plan ahead when voting in the upcoming November election. For many, the safest option will be voting from home by mail.
Voting by Mail is Safe
Iowa has a long and safe history of voters partaking in voting by mail with multiple safeguards in place to make sure Iowans who are voting by mail have their voice heard. While there is some confusion about what voting by mail is called, there is absolutely no difference between voting by mail or absentee voting despite the message coming from some national politicians.
The state of Iowa plans to send all registered voters an absentee ballot request form that they can fill out and mail back to their county auditors. You will only have to fill out a request form ONCE. Iowans who have requested to vote by mail should receive their ballot in early October.
Track Your Ballot
Once the ballot is requested voters can track the status of their request form and ballot on this website: https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/absenteeballotstatus/absentee/search
If you do not want to wait for the form from the Secretary of State you can print off a request form from this link and mail to your county auditor: https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/pdf/absenteeballotapp.pdf
COVID-19 Assistance for Iowa Farmers
Iowa farmers that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including price declines and additional marketing costs, now have until September 11th to apply for direct relief from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Previously, the deadline was August 28th.
The CFAP program contains two major elements, direct support to farmers and ranchers, as well as the purchase of fresh produce, dairy, and meat. For direct support, CFAP will provide up to $16 billion in support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted.
The USDA is also partnering with local distributors for fresh dairy, meat, and vegetables that would have otherwise been purchased by restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities. These products are then packaged and delivered to food banks and other nonprofits helping to feed the food insecure.
The USDA is now accepting applications at: https://www.farmers.gov/cfap. Producers can apply through the Farm Service Agency at their local USDA Service Center. All other eligibility forms, such as those related to adjusted gross income and payment information, can be downloaded from farmers.gov/cfap. For existing farm service agency customers, these documents are likely already on file.
Other Iowa News
SMALL BUSINESS UTILITY DISRUPTION PREVENTION PROGRAM EXPANDED: The Small Business Utility Disruption Prevention Program has been expanded and extended. Iowa small businesses and nonprofits, who have experienced a loss in revenue due to COVID-19 between March 17th and October 15th, may be eligible for a grant to help pay up to four months in utility costs. Applications are being approved on a rolling basis until October 31st, or until the funds have been exhausted. For more information on eligibility requirements and to apply visit, https://www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/Business/energy-recovery.
REAL ID DEADLINE EXTENDED UNTIL 2021: Due to COVID-19, it’s been announced that the REAL ID Gold Star deadline for identification used to fly or enter a federal building has been postponed for one year. The new deadline is Oct. 1, 2021. More info at https://iowadot.gov/mvd/realid.
“SHE GOES OUTDOORS” SUBSCRIPTION BOXES: The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has teamed up with Kansas and Nebraska to offer a quarterly outdoor subscription box to women interested in hunting and the outdoors. Boxes are $50 and include gear, educational resources, and field guides. An online tutorial accompanies each subscription box. Upcoming boxes include bird watching, outdoor cooking, pollinators, and fishing. Visit https://www.sgooutdoors.com/ for more information.
CONCUSSION AWARENESS MONTH: August is concussion awareness month in Iowa. A concussion is a type of brain injury that disrupts the way the brain normally works. In 2018, the Iowa Legislature passed a bill that developed training materials and courses on the return to play protocols for concussions and brain injuries that coaches or contest officials would complete every two years. The new law also stated that a student removed from sports participation cannot resume any sports activity until they are evaluated by a licensed health care provider. Now, students and their parents (grades 7-12) that are participating in interscholastic athletics must sign a form every year that provides extensive information on concussions. Concussions can have lasting impacts on both physical and mental health, and sleeping patterns. Common signs and symptoms of a concussion include headache, nausea, or vomiting, balance problems, dizziness, and blurry vision. For more information relating to concussion protocols in Iowa, please visit: https://idph.iowa.gov/brain-injuries/concussion/medical-team.