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State Government News

Reynolds Defends Decision To Return $95 Million In COVID-19 Testing Funds To Feds

050521-reynolds-press-conference
Natalie Krebs
/
IPR
Gov. Kim Reynolds has defended her decision to turn down $95 million in funding for COVID-19 testing in schools, saying the state has plenty of other funding available.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said she declined $95 million in federal funding for COVID-19 surveillance testing in schools because the state already has sufficient funding for testing.

The funding was part of President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan.

Reynolds said at a Wednesday press conference that the state still has $290 million available for testing supplies and services from previously allocated funding, and no Iowa school districts have claimed expenses for testing to the state.

"At some point, we can't continue to just take this money," she said. "There is a cost to taxpayers, and the amount of money that is flowing into these states because of the bad decision that some of the other states have made is unconscionable."

Several Democratic state lawmakers have criticized Reynolds for her decision saying the state should take all the pandemic support funding it’s offered.

"Returning federal relief money is like drilling holes in a sinking boat,” Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls told KCCI last week. “It makes no sense when we know that testing, whether it's in a school or workplace, is an important part of ensuring that individual cases don't become outbreaks."

State says its increasing COVID-19 vaccine outreach amid declining demand

Reynolds said the state is also increasing outreach to encourage more Iowans to get the COVID-19 vaccine, as demand continues to decline.

As of Wednesday afternoon, around 57 percent of Iowa’s adults have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s on par with national numbers.

Reynolds said the state is taking multiple approaches to increasing this number. This includes launching a statewide vaccine campaign next week and hosting pop-up clinics at well-attended events, such as Iowa Cubs baseball games and the Des Moines Farmers Market.

"We're going to continue to do the outreach and educate and inform, and we're going to work on a launch of a radio television ad in multiple languages," she said. "So we're going to continue to move it, and then we'll continue to evaluate where we're at."

The White House announced this week it’s aiming to have 70 percent of American adults receive at least one dose by the Fourth of July.

Federal officials also announced they're changing the way they allocate vaccines to states. If a state turns down part of its allocation, it will go back into a general pool for other states with higher demand to request to use.

Reynolds said Wednesday she agrees with this change.

This week, 88 of Iowa's 99 counties declined all or part of their vaccine allocation this week due to decreasing demand.