District 72 Update

State Rep. Dean Fisher

Newsletter for March 30, 2020

While the Legislature was not in session the last two weeks, things continued to evolve as state and national officials work to slow the spread of COVID-19. As legislators, we are continuing to work answering emails and phone calls from constituents, fielding phone calls from local officials, working with the governor’s office and other state agencies, and keeping you all updated on what actions the state is taking to keep our families and communities safe and healthy.

Since the Legislature suspended its session, the Governor has exercised her emergency powers in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Iowa. Among these orders includes the closing of businesses where people tend to congregate, such as bars and restaurants, entertainment venues, and salons and barbershops, among others. Many state departments have also taken action to help Iowans such as pushing back tax deadlines, extending unemployment benefits to workers impacts by COVID, and providing child care resources for parents working in essential industries.

While the Governor has not ordered a “shelter in place” or “stay at home” order, Iowans are encouraged to remain home and self-quarantine. This and other common sense practices like washing your hands, covering your sneezes and coughs, etc., will significantly help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many have questioned why governor Reynolds has not issued a “shelter-in-home” order for Iowans like other states have done. Some of the logic behind the reasoning is this: Iowa’s population density is much lower than most states. The New York City metro area’s population density, for example, is nearly 100x larger than Iowa’s. Iowa does not utilize much mass public transit which often spreads disease. Iowa does not have large apartment buildings where thousands of people live. Finally, a shelter-in-home order would strain local law enforcement resources.

Governor Reynolds has already taken significant action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 such as non-essential business closures, suspending non-essential surgeries, and encouraging Iowans to stay at home and self-isolate. Many of the shelter-in-home orders that have been implemented in other states cover what is already being done in Iowa. Given the varying shelter-in-home orders from other states, Iowa’s approach is both comparable and, in many cases, stronger.

Iowa is a unique state in the fact that we provide much of the agriculture and manufacturing for the country, and we need to keep those businesses operational during this time. Iowa produces 1/11 of the nation’s food supply and is home to 31 of the largest 100 food manufacturers in the world. Iowa is the 4th highest concentration of manufacturing employees of any state in the nation, producing crucial supplies.

Moving forward, the Department of Public Health is looking at the following 4 factors in considering whether further mitigation strategies need to happen: The percentage of the population greater than 65 years of age; the percentage of identified cases requiring hospitalization; the rate of infection per 100,000 population in the past 14 days; the incidence of Long-Term care facility outbreaks.

The Governor is also holding regular press conferences to keep the public informed on the state’s response. These press conferences are held at 2:30 pm, Sunday-Friday. Many TV news stations broadcast the press conference live or you can watch on the Governor’s Facebook page, Facebook.com/IAGovernor.

This is a difficult time for many small businesses so we must all do our part to show them our support. While restaurants are prohibited from dine-in customers, many are offering curbside and to-go orders. I would strongly encourage you to take advantage of these services. It’s a great way to support these local businesses and also to help use up existing food inventory that these restaurants and their distributors have. As Iowans, we know how important it is to take care of our own. Let’s make sure we are supporting those who have supported us in the past!

The situation is frequently changing so these updates may be added to or amended by the time this newsletter is printed, however, here are a few key Updates from the past two weeks.

Governor Reynolds announced two rounds of assistance for small businesses who have been affected by COVID-19. They include: Iowa Small Business Relief Grants – Grant awards ranging from $5,000-$25,000 for businesses with between 2-25 employees. Applications due on March 31; Iowa Small Business Tax Deferral – The Iowa Department of Revenue is allowing sales/use and withholding tax deferral for businesses affected by COVID-19. Applications due on March 31; Targeted Small Business Sole Operator Relief Fund – Grant awards ranging from $5,000-$10,000 for sole proprietorship or single member LLCs that are also certified as Targeted Small Businesses. The business must have been in existence for 12 months prior to April 10, 2020. While these programs are a quick start by leveraging existing programs, we have more work to do to fill in the gaps such as relief for sole proprietorships, etc. More information and full eligibility requirements can be found at IowaBusinessRecovery.com.

Secretary of State Paul Pate has extended the absentee voting window from 29 to 40 days for the Primary Election that is scheduled to be held on June 2. The Secretary of State’s Office is encouraging Iowans to vote by mail beginning April 23. Iowans can already request absentee ballots. To download your absentee ballot request form visit the Iowa Secretary of State’s website or contact your county auditor.

Through emergency orders, the Governor has temporarily suspended evictions for renters and foreclosures of residential, commercial, and agricultural real property. Individuals must continue to pay rent, mortgages, and leases, but they are protected from losing their homes while the proclamation is in place. For renters, a tenant who doesn’t pay rent is still subject to penalties listed in their lease agreements, and landlords can still add late charges and other financial penalties.

This is a difficult time for all, and especially our small business owners and employees who are taking the brunt of the financial losses during this pandemic. Please keep them in mind and patronize them as you can in a safe manner that respects the guidance to minimize the spread of this virus. Also, please don’t hoard. When you think about it, there is no need to hoard supplies such as toilet paper, or food. We aren’t using more than we did before! It can be argued that the distribution patterns have changed with the changes to our restaurant businesses, etc., but the retail stores and their distributors and manufacturers can and will adapt quickly to the changes. We can, and we must, get through this while maintaining our common sense and our strong sense of community. We are Iowan’s, we’re tough, and we’re thoughtful of our neighbors.