New Challenges for Iowa Schools Amid COVID-19
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As Iowa students, teachers, and staff prepare for the upcoming school year amid COVID-19 there are still many concerns.
In July, Iowa schools submitted “Return to Learn” plans to the state to detail how they were going to offer instruction to students during the pandemic. After those plans were submitted and just weeks before schools start up again, the Governor added new guidelines schools must follow this fall, including a requirement that at least 50.1% of instruction be face-to-face. In response several school districts have sought a waiver from the new in-person requirement, but it is unclear at this time if those waivers will be granted.
The Governor’s latest guidelines have led to more confusion and uncertainty among parents, school leaders, and teachers. So far, the Governor still has not provided any additional emergency funding for schools to at least make sure local schools have the PPE necessary to keep educators and kids safe.
Legislators are gathering thoughts from Iowans on how to safely learn during COVID-19. Take the survey at: https://bit.ly/30XHRbQ
All Iowa Voters Will Get a Vote from Home Request in Mail
After record setting vote from home primary election turnout and pressure from local elected officials, the Iowa Secretary of State has changed course and will now be sending out blank vote-from-home request forms to all voters. Legislative Republicans were initially resistant to making sure all voters had access to a request form.
This past session the legislature implemented a new law that requires the Secretary of State to get Legislative Council approval to make changes to the upcoming election. However, a proclamation from the executive council, made up of top Iowa elected officials prohibits the county auditors from sending out pre-populated absentee ballot request forms to voters. Auditors will be allowed to send blank request forms to voters, and will waive the request deadline for voters who are patients or tenants of a health care facility in the 2020 general election.
Since the legislation has become law multiple counties have announced that they will be sending out requests to all voters with pre-filled information, including the voter identification number. This was a response to language that was put in the standings bill that prevented a county auditor from looking up a voter’s PIN number in the voter registration system.
Annual Tax-Free Weekend Aug. 7 & 8
The yearly tax-free holiday begins the first Friday in August and runs through the next day, or August 7-8 this year. The back-to-school sales tax holiday does not include Sunday. No sales tax is collected on clothing or footwear that sells for less than $100. The exemption applies to each article priced under $100, no matter how many individual articles are purchased.
Clothing included in the sales tax holiday is generally any article of wearing apparel and typical footwear that is worn on the body. The holiday does not include watches, jewelry, sporting equipment, or any special clothing or footwear designed for a specialized activity that is not usually considered everyday wear.
Any business that is open during these days is required to participate. Businesses do not have to do any special sales tax reporting, but when completing the sales tax return should list qualifying sales during the holiday on the “exemptions” line.
Additional information on the sales tax holiday can be found at https://tax.iowa.gov/iowas-annual-sales-tax-holiday?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery.
Other Iowa News
SMALL BUSINESS UTILITY DISRUPTION PROGRAM: Iowa small businesses and nonprofits who have experienced a loss in revenue due to COVID-19 from March 17th to June 30th and have unpaid utility bills may be eligible for a grant to help pay those bills. Eligible businesses and nonprofits include those with 50 or fewer employees who did not receive a grant from the small business relief grant program or the nonprofit recovery fund. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis now until August 21st. For more information on eligibility requirements and to apply, visit https://www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/Business/energy-recovery
VETERAN CAREGIVER SUPPORT AND RESOURCE FAIR: The 2020 Veteran Caregiver Support Program Virtual Caregiver and Family Resource Fair will be held virtually on August 11, 2020 from 9am-12pm. This fair provides support and services for family caregivers of veterans and helps with navigating the VA healthcare system and accessing resources. By promoting the health and well-being of these caregivers, it in turn, assists them in helping veterans live to their fullest potential. Organizations attending the virtual fair include: Peer Support Specialists, Primary Care Providers, Suicide Prevention Services, Veterans Justice Program, and VA Telehealth staff, among others. To RSVP and receive an invitation and agenda, please email your name or the name of your representative to firstname.lastname@example.org
FREE COVID-19 LEGAL ADVICE: The federal eviction prevention program expires on Saturday, July 25. Under the CARES Act, tenants of apartment buildings financed by federally backed mortgages could not be evicted for failing to pay rent for 120 days. If you have any questions or problems related to evictions, contact Iowa Legal Aid for free legal advice at: https://www.iowalegalaid.org.
PHASE-IN UTILITY SERVICE DISCONNECTIONS: This month, investor-owned utilities resumed customer utility disconnections that were previously paused do to COVID-19. On March 27, 2020, an emergency order that restricted utility shut offs by all electric and natural gas utilities, including investor-owned, municipal, and cooperative. On May 20th, the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) issued an order establishing requirements for all Iowa utilities to follow before resuming disconnection service with a utility disconnection service timeline. Iowans who need information can go to IUB’s frequently asked utility service disconnection questions sheet. Those who are unable to reach a resolution with their utilities can call the IUB at 877-565-4450 (toll-free), 515-725-7300 or email email@example.com. Any customer who has a complaint about utility service and is unable to resolve the issue with their utility may use the IUB online complaint form to file a complaint with the IUB.