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Iowa Governor Calls On Congress To Pass Pandemic Relief, Doesn't Plan To Use State Funding In The Meantime

Grant Gerlock
IPR file
Gov. Kim Reynolds is calling on Congress to provide more relief as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Gov. Kim Reynolds is calling on Congress to provide more financial relief for families and businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but she is not asking state lawmakers to use Iowa’s budget surplus and emergency funds to provide assistance.

About $70 million of the $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act dollars received by Iowa last spring is left to be allocated.

Congress has failed for months to agree on a new relief package as Americans face food insecurity, evictions, and job and business losses.

Reynolds was asked Tuesday if she would call a special session of the Iowa Legislature to help Iowans affected by the pandemic.

“Unfortunately there’s just not enough state funding to make everybody whole,” Reynolds said. “So this is something that Congress needs to do. They need to step up and do their job. They need to come together and get it figured out and get relief sent to the states for our small businesses and Iowans that are suffering from COVID-19.”

While many states saw a massive drop in state revenue this year, Iowa experienced a smaller decline.

The state ended the previous fiscal year with a budget surplus of $305.5 million, plus about $770 million in cash reserves. Reynolds noted the state would have to work to re-fill the cash reserves if that funding was used.

Still, other states have had special legislative sessions to fund additional relief programs during the pandemic.

And in October, Iowa’s state revenue forecasters said the lack of additional federal aid adds to the uncertainty about Iowa’s economy and revenue.

Reynolds sees improvement in COVID-19 trends but state is “not out of the woods”

Reynolds said Tuesday she is “pleased” to see signs of improvement in Iowa’s COVID-19 trends.

Iowa had more infections, hospitalizations and deaths in November than in any other month. Reported COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have decreased from their peak in November.

But deaths are still very high and nursing homes continue to see new outbreaks, with the state reporting a record 163 facilities with an active outbreak as of Tuesday evening.

Reynolds said she is “cautiously optimistic” that the very limited mitigation measures she put in place about two weeks ago are working.

“So even though the progress we’re making is reassuring, we’re not out of the woods,” Reynolds said. “It is going to continue to take all of us working together to make that possible. So now is not the time to let up on our efforts.”

University of Iowa Hospital Epidemiologist Dr. Jorge Salinas said in a video recorded Tuesday that he hopes the number of cases will continue to decrease. But he said Iowa and the Midwest as a whole are still seeing a “critical level” of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population.

“It’s still a bit unclear what the effects of the past holiday will have on incidence,” Salinas said. “It may stop the decrease in the number of cases, it may lead to an increase in cases. The next one or two weeks will tell.

Many Americans traveled or gathered with others for Thanksgiving last week against the advice of the CDC.

“My prediction is the number of cases will remain relatively high in Iowa over the next month,” Salinas said. “I am hopeful they won’t reach the same levels as early November, but again that’s dependent on what Iowans do.”