|2021 Legislative Survey
We Want to Hear from You
The 2021 Legislative Session starts next week, January 11th. While it may look a bit different because of COVID-19, lawmakers have pledged to work together and focus on policies that will help Iowans recover from the pandemic.
Iowans are encouraged to listen or watch the Iowa Legislature live at home at: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/chambers.
In an effort to connect with more Iowans, lawmakers are looking for feedback and request they participate in a brief survey about the upcoming legislative session. Complete the survey here and share your views.
New Federal Stimulus Package Details
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the United States Congress reached a compromise that has been signed into law. The legislation addresses several steps in order to help Iowans as they continue to battle the pandemic. Details on some of the key parts of the relief package include the following:
- Another round of stimulus checks will be sent out to Iowans. Some Iowans have already received their direct stimulus payments. The payments will be smaller at $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year. $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000, and an extra $600 for dependent children that are under 17 years old.
- The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been reopened with forgivable loans to small businesses and many nonprofits, the loan program will work similar to the previous program. The bill also expanded the Economic Injury Disaster Loans for small businesses. More information will be available on the SBA’s website, https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options.
- Part of the relief packages includes the Save Our Stages Act, which will help live music venues, theaters, and cultural institutions who have lost revenue due to COVID-19. Congress appropriated up to $15 billion in grants to venues with at least a 25% decline in revenues. More information about the program will be coming in the next few weeks.
- The package also gives people on unemployment an extra $300 a week through March 14th. People who are currently on unemployment do not need to do anything to receive the additional $300. Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) is still waiting on guidance from the federal government and will start sending the additional payments in the coming weeks. The bill also expands the amount of time people can receive unemployment from 39 weeks to 50 weeks. More information on unemployment can be found on IWD’s website, https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/.
- The bill will also spend much needed federal resources on making sure Iowans and the nation have access to the vaccines and more mitigation efforts. The bill allocates $8.75 billion to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal public health agencies to distribute, administer, monitor and track coronavirus vaccination to ensure broad-based distribution, access and vaccine coverage.
More information will be coming in the following days about how much money will be coming to Iowa to help deal with the pandemic.
Iowa’s Nursing Home Residents Begin to get Vaccinated for COVID-19
On December 28, some of Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens, long-term care residents, began receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The federal government created a pharmacy partnership program to vaccinate these residents free of charge. Three national pharmacy chains, Walgreens, CVS, and Community Pharmacy, have been paired with nursing facilities across the state to administer the vaccine to both residents and staff. The entire vaccination process for this population is expected to be about two months. Each resident and staff will need two doses (either 21 or 28 days apart depending on the vaccine type they receive) to become fully vaccinated.
In Iowa, residents of long-term care facilities have suffered the most with the COVID-19 virus. Out of the total 3,822 deaths in Iowa related to COVID-19, 1,139 have taken place in long-term care facilities, and people over the age of 80 have made up 41% of the total positive cases.
For more detailed information on the vaccine distribution plan in Iowa, please visit: https://idph.iowa.gov/Portals/1/userfiles/61/covid19/vaccine/V%202%20IOWA%20COVID-19%20VACCINATION%20STRATEGY%2012_4_20_FINAL.pdf.
Iowa Broadband Providers Awarded $143 Million to Expand Access
Eleven broadband providers have been awarded $143 million to expand broadband access in rural Iowa through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This fund is a federal program that focuses on providing broadband access to 10 million Americans. Nearly all rural locations eligible for this award will receive broadband at speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download, with nearly 85% of eligible locations receiving Gigabit service.
This program will build on SF 2400 (Empower Rural Iowa), which unanimously passed both chambers last session and expanded broadband access through grant funding and infrastructure tax exemptions.
Information on providers receiving funds under the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund can be found here: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-368588A1.pdf.
Other Iowa News
IOWA ALCOHOL SALES RISE: As many Iowans were spending more time at home, Iowans drank more but their choice of drink did not change. In a recent report issued by the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, liquor sales increased by 8.3% from the last fiscal year. This is a $367.3 million increase from the previous year. While drinking habits may have changed due to law changes such as alcohol to go, it is too early to tell how much that impacted the increase in sales. Iowans continued to choose Black Velvet whiskey as their spirit of choice, by an overwhelming margin, followed by Tito’s vodka, and Captain Morgan rum. The state made $17.6 million in revenue, which is down from the previous year, due to COVID-19 regulations.
JUDICIAL BRANCH WARNS OF COLLECTION NOTICE SCAM: The Iowa Judicial Branch is warning people of a scam claiming to be coming from clerks of court. Letters are sent that claim to be from the Judicial Branch. Recipients are warned that payments must be made through a 1-800 number or the person’s driver’s license will be suspended and an arrest warrant issued. The Judicial Branch does not have a 1-800 number for collecting court fines and fees. The scam appears to be targeting Iowans that have moved out of state. Anyone that wants to verify information that claims to be from the Judicial Branch is encouraged to contact the clerk of court in the county where the notice was sent from. A directory of the clerk of court offices can be found on the Judicial Branch website at: https://www.iowacourts.gov/court-directory/.
CONDITION OF EDUCATION REPORT RELEASED: The Iowa Department of Education has released their annual report containing state-level data and information on Iowa’s schools. The Annual Condition of Education report includes data on preschool-through-12th grade student populations and demographics, academic achievement, as well as teacher and school administrator characteristics. The report includes the 2019-20 school year, and for the first time, it shows that Iowa has over 25% minority students. Also, the percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches was 42.4%, which was down slightly from 43% the year before. For the 2019-20 school year, the number of students in PK-12 increased. However, since less kids were in school due to COVID-19, the student count on Oct. 1, 2020 that will help determine school aid for the upcoming school year, decreased by 6,000 students. This will have a significant impact on school funding unless addressed by the Legislature.