Help is on the Way with the American Rescue Plan
Thanks to the strong leadership of President Biden, relief is on the way for Iowans still struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in Iowa, the relief plan is especially welcomed news as Republican lawmakers have taken no action on the Build Back Iowa plan offered by Democratic lawmakers to help Iowans recover from the pandemic.
Starting this week, Iowans began receiving direct stimulus payments in their bank accounts and those who lost their job due to the pandemic will be receiving extended unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021. The bill also gives schools the resources needed to get kids back in the classroom safely, provide more small business relief, and cut the child poverty rate in half.
As more details become available, House Democrats will continue to provide resources and information on how Iowans can receive the help they need from the American Rescue Plan.
Track Your Stimulus Payment
Check the status of your $1,400 COVID relief stimulus check from the American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Biden. To track your payment status, use the IRS tool at: irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment.
House Considers Bill that Eliminates Background Checks and Permits on Guns
The Iowa House majority party has introduced legislation that would no longer require background checks or a permit to carry a gun. Currently, Iowa law requires people to pass a criminal background check, before purchasing a handgun from any seller and when obtaining their permit.
According to national published research, state laws requiring background checks for all handgun sales are associated with lower firearm homicide, suicide, and trafficking rates.
The bill, HF 756, would repeal the state’s background check requirement by allowing individuals to buy handguns without a permit. By eliminating the permit requirement, this bill would lower standards for who may legally carry – to include individuals with dangerous histories, convicted stalkers, and people who may have never fired a handgun or received training. Some Iowans have also expressed concern that the bill allows guns to be carried on school buses.
Iowa’s Unemployment Rate Slowly Improves, Republicans Still Cutting Benefits
While Iowa’s unemployment rate has slightly declined, the job gains have not yet erased the major impact that COVID-19 has had on Iowans. Since the pandemic last year, the labor force in Iowa has declined by 103,000 workers, which is the second largest drop in the country (Source: Des Moines Register).
Even with so many Iowans still out of work, Republican lawmakers in the House want to cut benefits that feed families and keep the lights on. The bill, HF 754, institutes a one-week waiting period for an Iowan who lost their job to receive benefits and punishes families with more children.
The good news for Iowans who lost their job during the pandemic comes from President Biden and the American Rescue Plan signed into law last week. That bill extends the $300 extra per week unemployment benefit through September 6 that was set to expire this week. It also exempts up to $10,200 in unemployment benefits received in 2020 from federal income taxes for households making less than $150,000.
Anti-Low-Income Housing Bill Passes Legislature
This week, the Iowa Legislature took a step backwards in ensuring affordable housing to Iowa’s veterans, seniors, and persons with disabilities. Instead of supporting our most vulnerable who need affordable housing, majority party lawmakers passed a bill which allows landlords to reject applicants with federal housing vouchers.
The bill, SF 252, would prevent local governments from enacting non-discrimination clauses related to housing vouchers. Currently the cities of Des Moines, Iowa City, and Marion, have an ordinance that prohibits landlords from refusing to rent to tenants using housing vouchers as their sole reason for denial.
Iowa has a shortage of 53,135 affordable and available rental homes for extreme low-income renters. The U.S. Housing and Urban Development has several types of housing voucher programs and Democratic lawmakers tried to exempt those programs related to veterans, disabled or children aging out of foster care from the bill. Unfortunately, those ideas were defeated on party line votes.
The bill is now headed to the Governor’s desk for her approval.
Other Iowa News
NOMINATE AN IOWAN FOR THE IOWA WOMEN’S HALL OF FAME: The Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame is accepting nominations of Iowa women who have made history. They may be your co-workers, neighbors, friends and local leaders; they may spend their time as professionals, educators, mothers, care-givers, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs. To nominate a woman for the 2021 Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame visit: humanrights.iowa.gov/cas/icsw/events-recognition/iowa-womens-hall-fame.
HEAR STORIES ABOUT IOWA’S HISTORY: Iowa Stories is a State Historical Society of Iowa premier learning showcase. Learn about Iowa’s rich history from state historians. These online events are free and open to the public. To view Iowa Stories programs and to register, go to: iowaculture.gov/history/programs/adult-programs/iowa-stories.
AN EFFORT TO REDUCE TRAFFIC FATALITIES: This St. Patrick’s Day was the kick-off to a year-long campaign to reduce traffic deaths in Iowa. The Iowa Traffic Fatality Reduction Task Force will focus on enforcement, engineering, and education to reduce the number of deaths on Iowa’s roads. The ultimate goal of the campaign is to reduce traffic deaths to zero but the goal for 2021 is to reduce fatalities to under 300. The number of yearly traffic deaths has not been below 300 since 1925. The four major times throughout the year with the highest number of traffic deaths are March 17, June 9-12, September 16, and October 2-4. During these times law enforcement across Iowa will be out in full force to make sure people stay safe on the roads. In order to reduce the number of traffic deaths drivers need to slow down, everyone needs to wear seatbelts, don’t drink and drive, and don’t drive while distracted.
FARM ENVIRONMENTAL LEADER AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN: Iowans are invited to nominate individuals or families for the 2021 Farm Environmental Leader Awards. The awards are given to leaders in the agricultural community that invest in conservation practices to protect the state’s natural resources. To nominate an Iowan, go to: data.iowaagriculture.gov/ifela.