Iowa governor not planning state funds use for virus relief
JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday called for Congress to approve money for businesses and families struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic, but she said there are no plans to use available state funds as officials elsewhere have done.
Some legislatures are considering allocating state funds as a stopgap measure until Congress agrees to additional federal relief. Asked Tuesday whether she was considering calling lawmakers back into session to approve such a move, she said no.
“Unfortunately, there’s just not enough state funding to make everybody whole and that’s just a reality of what we’re dealing with,” Reynolds said. “This is something 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 again at no fault of their own.”
Iowa ended the fiscal year in September with a balance of $305.5 million in the general fund and cash reserves of more than $770 million.
Democratic governors in Colorado and New Mexico convened special legislative sessions in the closing days of November to address the virus-related emergency. This week, the New Mexico Legislature passed a bipartisan relief bill that will deliver a one-time $1,200 check to all unemployed workers and give up to $50,000 to certain businesses. Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin, who control both houses of the Legislature, also are considering whether to return this month.
State government leaders want President Donald Trump and Congress to extend the Dec. 30 deadline for spending virus relief money already allocated under the CARES Act, which was approved in March, and to provide more funding to deal with the consequences of the latest surge in cases.
A Nov. 17 report by the Legislative Services Agency said Iowa had $82 million remaining of the federal allocation of $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding. A spokesman for Reynolds said the governor plans to provide an update on spending next week. She said state officials are meeting daily to discuss how to spend the remaining funds by month’s end.
Congress has been unable to agree on a plan for additional federal funding despite a fragile economy and soaring numbers of coronavirus cases.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has held to his demand for a liability shield for businesses reopening during the pandemic, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi continues to call for a $2 trillion-plus package that includes state and local government aid.
In Iowa, the coronavirus infection rate showed signs of slowing Tuesday but the number of people hospitalized with illness and dying with COVID-19 remained high, according to public health data.
Some of the decline in case positivity could be due to reduced testing around the Thanksgiving holiday. Some hospital officials were bracing for another surge in positive tests and illness due to Thanksgiving family gatherings.
Iowa’s seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate declined in the past two weeks but remained third in the nation at 41.24% on Monday, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
The average of daily deaths in Iowa has risen over the past two weeks from 20 deaths per day on Nov. 16 to 28 deaths per day on Monday, Johns Hopkins data showed. Iowa posted 24 deaths on Tuesday, raising the state total to 2,427. In November, more than 680 people died from the virus.
According to the state Department of Public Health, 1,906 new cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours as of Tuesday morning. Hospitals reported 1,172 patients with COVID-19, up 10 from the day before.
The state reported 162 long-term care facilities had virus outbreaks.