Holly’s Headlines // COVID-19 Update

by Holly Brink

Update from the House for District 80

Hello friends,

It has certainly been an interesting week so far! Please read this newsletter to better understand the effects of the Coronavirus on the legislative session and how we will be moving forward.

The latest update from the Governor is a declaration of a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency.

The Governor issued an emergency order closing all bars and restaurants (carry out and drive-through still allowed), fitness centers, theaters, casinos, and adult day care/senior citizen centers. This is in an effort to continue to protect the public health of our communities, and especially those in the risk populations for COVID-19.

We must all remember to keep calm and practice common sense during this time. Wash your hands, stay home if you’re not feeling well, be mindful of those in the risk populations, and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. I will keep you all updated as I learn more.

You can learn more about the Governor’s order here.

At this link you will also find the latest COVID-19 information and policies by click on “Coronavirus News”.

House and Senate Suspend Legislative Session

Out of an abundance of caution related to COVID-19, leadership in the Iowa House and Senate have made the decision to suspend the legislative session for a minimum of 30 days. The decision was made in consultation with the Department of Public Health and the Governor’s office following the announcement of “community spread” in Iowa. The Legislature is following recommendations from the Center for Disease Control related to mass gatherings to protect vulnerable populations.

This was a decision that was not made lightly but is in the best interest of the public, press, staff, and legislators.

Schools

Governor Reynolds has recommended that Iowa schools close for a minimum of four weeks to prevent further spread of COVID-19. In response, the Legislature has waived the requirement for schools to make up days through April 12. After that, the Legislature has provided the Governor with the ability to forgive school days statewide or on a district by district basis. This decision will provide Iowa school districts with the certainty that they need to make decisions locally and move ahead this school year.

You can watch Governor Reynolds’ address regarding schools here.

You can find school guidance from the Department of Education here.

Workers and Businesses

Governor Reynolds has also announced assistance for workers and businesses impacted by layoffs related to COVID-19. Iowans who have been 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, may eligible for unemployment benefits, provided they meet all other eligibility requirements, and work search requirements will be waived.

You can find more information from Iowa Workforce Development here.

Taking Care of Yourself and Others

During this time, we must all do our part to prevent the spread of illnesses and protect our health care system from becoming overburdened.

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus in the first place. This is especially important for people who are at a higher risk of getting very sick (older adults, people who have serious chronic medical conditions). If you are feeling ill, contact your primary care provider or your local county public health agency if you have any questions.

Prevention of COVID-19 is the same as that for other respiratory illness (like flu):

Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper arm/elbow.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Stay home if you’re sick.
The CDC recommends wearing a facemask if you are sick or if you are caring for someone who is sick. Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.

You can find more information from the CDC on how to protect yourself here.
House and Senate Pass Measures to Fund Government, Pause Session

Early Tuesday morning, the Legislature passed a series of resolutions to pause the legislative session for 30 days while the state works to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Senate and House waived the requirement for Iowa schools to reschedule days canceled following Governor Reynolds’ recommendation, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. On Sunday, March 15, 2020, Governor Reynolds recommended Iowa schools cancel classes for four weeks. Any classes previously scheduled from March 16, 2020 to April 12, 2020 will not be required to be rescheduled.

Senate File 2408 also included a supplemental appropriation to continue the current budget for July and August 2020, if needed. The spending for these months will be at the current rate of funding in FY 2020 and only go into effect if the Legislature is unable to meet again prior to the end of the fiscal year. However, education funding will increase to reflect the agreement made by the Legislature earlier this year, which provided schools with an additional $99 million.

This resolution includes a $91.8 million supplemental appropriation for this current fiscal year, approximately $525,000 of that amount is appropriated to the State Hygienic Lab for additional COVID-19 testing. The remainder of the $91.8 million is for Medicaid, Hawk-I, and the Glenwood Resource Center. The bill also increases the Governor’s transfer authority between budget line items in the state budget.

Additionally, Senate File 2408 permits Governor Reynolds to access the Economic Emergency Fund (EEF) during these 30 days for needs related to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Legislature permitted Governor Reynolds to spend up to 10% of the EEF to address the needs arising from the virus. Additionally, the Legislative Council may approve up to a total of $196 million in funding without the Legislature convening.

All of these laws are passed as session law. Session law means the policy passed today will be temporary and only to address the current public health situation. They are not implemented as a permanent part of the Iowa code. SCR 102 adjourned the Iowa Legislature until April 15, 2020. Senate Concurrent Resolution 102 also pauses current legislative deadlines. If needs arise, the Legislature may reconvene before or after April 15.

Senate and House Agree to Waive Requirement for School Days to be Rescheduled

The Senate and House have agreed to waive the requirement for Iowa schools to reschedule days canceled following Governor Reynolds’ recommendation, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. On Sunday, March 15, 2020, Governor Reynolds recommended Iowa schools cancel classes for four weeks. Any classes previously scheduled from March 16, 2020 to April 12, 2020 will not be required to be rescheduled. Legislation will advance today to implement this agreement.

“This decision will provide Iowa school districts with the certainty that they need to make decisions locally and move ahead this school year,” said Speaker Pat Grassley.

Posted by on Mar 20 2020. Filed under Local News, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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