Iowa governor to allow evictions, large events to resume

May 26, 2020 GMT

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Kim Reynolds moved Tuesday to lift a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures and allow gatherings of more than 10 people to resume, as she continues to end restrictions meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Under an emergency proclamation, the governor declared that casinos, outdoor amphitheaters, amusement parks, bowling alleys, arcades, race tracks, skating rinks and outdoor playgrounds can reopen June 1.

Iowa’s ban on social, community and recreational gatherings larger than 10 people will expire the same day. Events such as parades, festivals and conventions can resume if public health measures are implemented, including requiring participants to practice social distancing. Practices and competitions for youth sports such as baseball and softball will also be permitted.

The continued reopening comes as COVID-19 deaths in Iowa have increased to 471, including a one-day record of 26 announced on Saturday. Iowa’s number of cases has increased to 17,690, the 12th highest per capita among states, tracking data shows.

The state on Tuesday confirmed two new workplace outbreaks, at Perdue Farms plants in Sioux Center and Sioux City.

Unlike the majority of other states, Iowa never implemented a stay-at-home order and instead banned large gatherings and closed many businesses and schools. Over the last month, the governor has steadily removed those restrictions even as the virus continues to spread.

On Thursday, bars, wineries, breweries, distilleries and social clubs can reopen statewide.

“For our state, recovery means striking a balance between getting life and business back to normal while continuing to manage the virus activity,” Reynolds said Tuesday. “Our recovery is contingent upon our ability to protect both the lives and livelihoods of Iowans. We can’t prioritize one over the other.”

Advocates for low-income residents have warned that scores of people who have lost income during the pandemic could face eviction or foreclosure when the moratorium for nonpayment expires at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. The American Civil Liberties Union and several other groups had asked the governor to extend the moratorium, which she first imposed March 19.

Some landlords, however, had reported that they were struggling financially as renters stopped paying amid skyrocketing levels of unemployment.

Reynolds said the moratorium was a temporary public health measure designed to keep people in their homes during the emergency and not intended to freeze people’s financial obligations indefinitely.

She said the Iowa Finance Authority would announce the details of a new federally funded program designed to prevent evictions and foreclosures. She said the program should open Friday for residents who “have experienced a documented loss of income due to COVID-19” and are unable to pay their rent or mortgage payments.

Details on eligibility and the types of assistance offered will be announced this week, she said. She promised that enough money would be set aside and available quickly enough to provide relief to those who need it.

“We are changing the parameters in which we are providing the assurance that people aren’t thrown out of their homes in these really difficult times,” she said.