Business & Consumer News

In this file photo, a worker at a meat processing plant stands side by side other workers.
Courtesy of Oxfam America / file

Iowa businesses and health care providers would have special protections against coronavirus-related lawsuits under a bill House Republicans passed Friday night. Republican leaders took the rare step of setting a vote time of 11 p.m., leaving about 40 minutes for lawmakers to debate the policy.

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday announced more businesses will be allowed to reopen over the next several days after being closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Movie theaters, zoos, aquariums, museums and wedding venues are allowed to open Friday at 5:00 a.m. Wedding receptions will be exempt from the 10-person limit on most gatherings if the venue follows state public health guidelines. Swimming pools can also open Friday for lessons and lap swimming.

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Iowa restaurants, barber shops and retail establishments are slowly coming back to life following an executive order from the governor.

That’s not the case for the state’s bars and casinos which will remain closed at least through May 27.

Iowa Racing and Gaming administrator Brian Ohorilko told IPR’s Pat Blank on All Things Considered Friday that when the venues are allowed to open their doors, things will be different inside.

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As Gov. Kim Reynolds continues to reopen parts of the state’s economy, she’s touting Iowa’s resources for coronavirus testing. But among those still struggling to get tested are dentists, who were able to start reopening their practices as of last week.

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John Pemble / IPR file

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation Wednesday that will allow some more businesses to reopen Friday.

Campgrounds, drive-in movie theaters, tanning facilities and medical spas can reopen at 5:00 a.m. Friday statewide if they follow public health guidance.

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401(K)2012 / flickr

Gov. Kim Reynolds last week temporarily prohibited debt collectors and banks from seizing funds from Iowans’ bank accounts and wages during the coronavirus public health emergency.

Workers at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa, take the first bets at the casino's new sportsbook.
Grant Gerlock / IPR file

Iowa Workforce Development notified Iowans last week that refusing to return to work for fear of getting coronavirus will disqualify them for unemployment payments, but that’s not always the case.

Iowa Legal Aid Litigation Director Alex Kornya said state law is more nuanced than IWD’s statement would lead Iowans to believe.

Courtesy of Robby Pedersen

Downtowns were once a hub for general retail. Then they transitioned to having more restaurants and specialty stores like gift shops. Now those types of businesses are closed in Iowa because of COVID-19. 


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The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our lives. Social distancing has meant shutting down all kinds of events and gatherings, closing churches and stores and limiting restaurants to take-out only service. Many of us have been encouraged or required to work from home. Perhaps you are now a new at home worker, making that transition.

Purina

Pet food manufacturing facilities in Iowa and across the country are considered a critical essential resource by Homeland Security, so they continue to operate.

The Purina Company has factories in Clinton, Davenport and Fort Dodge and employs more than one thousand people.

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Curbside delivery of materials like paint and lumber is allowing some Iowa contractors to continue working on construction projects despite COVID-19.

Executive Officer of the Home Builders Association of Iowa, Jay Iverson, said most are doing their best to comply with social distancing.

Subcontractors and those working on a project are asked to leave the premises while deliveries are being made," he said.

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Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Iowa officials announced Monday the state is launching a short-term relief program for small businesses disrupted by measures taken to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Businesses with two to 25 employees prior to March 17 can apply for grants between $5,000 and $25,000. These businesses can also be eligible for a deferral of sales and use or withholding taxes.

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Consumers may encounter higher prices for clothes and home goods this holiday shopping season, as the trade dispute with China is expected to increase costs and slow economic growth in the Midwest.

Courtesy of UnityPoint Health

UnityPoint Health, one of Iowa's largest healthcare systems, has called off its merger with South Dakota-based Sanford Health.

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Fire At Will / Creative Commons

On this edition of River to River, listeners will learn how a pair of Iowa brick-and-mortar retailers have been adjusting to the rise of e-commerce. These retailers are looking to emphasize services that online shopping cannot provide, such as experiences, entertainment options and advice on products. 

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A southwest Iowa restaurant damaged by last spring’s flooding is preparing to make a comeback.

Courtesy of UnityPoint Health

UnityPoint Health, one of the state's largest healthcare systems, has announced it is pursuing a merger with South Dakota-based Sanford Health. 

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An investigation by Iowa’s state auditor alleges a former employee of an Iowa City business group improperly spent nearly half a million dollars with a company credit card.

Katie Peikes / IPR

In the community of Hamburg in southwest Iowa, people continue returning to their homes and businesses to assess the damage from last month’s widespread flooding.


Kate Payne / IPR

A new restaurant will help keep a historic building open in one Iowa small town, after a well-loved bistro closed down earlier this year.

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John Pemble/IPR

All Iowa businesses would be required to use the federal E-Verify program to check if their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States under a bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. The state could suspend or revoke the business license of employers that knowingly hire undocumented immigrants.

Katie Peikes/IPR / IPR

Retail giant Shopko is closing about 250 stores across the country after filing for bankruptcy in January. Two dozen of those stores are in Iowa, and 22 are Shopko Hometown stores, smaller-format locations designed for smaller cities and towns. Rural Iowa communities fear the closures of these general merchandise stores are going to hit them hard. 

The craft beer craze has been sweeping the nation for quite a while now, and the odds are pretty good that there is a craft beer brewery or tap room near you. But what about a Kombucha tap room?

Kombucha is a type of fermented tea that is hundreds of years old, but has experienced a surge in popularity in the United States in the last few years. There’s only one Kombucha tap room in the state. You will probably not be surprised to learn that it’s in Iowa City.

Kate Payne / IPR

Leaders in several Johnson County communities are agreeing to collaborate on growing businesses in the region. Area mayors say they’ll work together to attract and retain companies, instead of competing for them outright. 

Iowa DOT map

One of Iowa’s 14 Sears stores will close in late March, as part of the company’s latest round of reductions announced Friday.  Sears Holdings says the store at the Southern Hills Mall in Sioux City is among 80 Sears and K-Mart stores throughout the country that will close, as the company fights to stay in business. 

The company has told its employees liquidation sales will begin in about two weeks. 

The Sioux City location includes an auto center, which will close in late January.

Samir Luther

The Trump administration wants to allow states to set their own emissions standards for coal-fueled power plants. The plan is a rollback of Obama-era pollution rules.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer gets reaction to the proposal from Iowa’s energy sector, and guests estimate how much the new rules will change the course of Iowa’s energy future, especially since Iowa is a national leader in wind energy.

Guests include: Dan Lutat of Iowa Lake Community College and Justin Foss of Alliant Energy.

NewLink Genetics

Ames-based NewLink Genetics is continuing to shed employees as it works to bring a cancer-fighting drug to market. The latest round of layoffs includes a couple of members from its management team.

For the third summer in a row, NewLink is announcing a reduction in its workforce. One of the employees departing the company is executive vice president and chief financial officer Jack Henneman, who plans to retire.

GotCredit / Flickr

Iowans concerned about their job security can buy some peace of mind with a new type of insurance. Iowa is the second state to offer layoff insurance to workers, after Wisconsin.

The plans, which pay out a lump-sum if a person is laid off or becomes unable to work, are expanding now to additional states.

Mark Greene, director of SafetyNet, the company that created this type of insurance, says too many people don’t have enough savings to deal with a sudden disruption in their income.

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