Gov. Kim Reynolds touts Iowa’s unemployment benefits and ability to treat COVID-19 patients

In Gov. Kim Reynolds' daily press conference, she highlighted Iowa's ability to give millions of dollars in unemployment benefits, and despite the rising number of COVID-19 cases, Reynolds gave no indication that she would be issuing a shelter-in-place order at this time.

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Ben Allan Smith

Kim Reynolds talks at Hy-Vee in Coralville during her 99 Counties tour on Thursday, April 5, 2018.

Julia Shanahan, Politics Editor


Gov. Kim Reynolds touted the state’s ability to provide Iowans with unemployment benefits in a Thursday press conference and doubled down again on her decision to not issue a shelter-in-place order at this time.

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend said there were more than 67,000 unemployment claims in Iowa reported by the U.S. Department of Labor between March 29 and April 4. The total number of unemployment claims in Iowa is nearly 93,000. 

Townsend said the state issued more than $27.5 million in unemployment benefits during last week. She said the state has $1.13 billion in trust-fund benefits, but once the state has spent $950 million in unemployment benefits, employers will begin to be charged with unemployment claims.

She said the state is $180 million away from putting that trigger in place.

“We might not get to you as quickly as we normally would, but we will get to you, and more importantly, we will get your claims paid,” Townsend said on Thursday.

Townsend said Iowans can anticipate seeing federal relief payments next week, and that the Iowa Workforce Development would notify people when that money is dispersed.

The Iowa National Guard established six Regional Medical Coordination Centers (RMCC) across the state, where the Iowa National Guard can work with health-care providers in assisting with needed equipment. Each region is subject to a 12-point system to gauge the severity of the COVID-19 spread in relation to available resources. Iowa officials said a region reaching 10 points would call for a shelter-in-place order.

On Thursday, Reynolds gave updated point values on each of the six regions, where every region was scored with a six or higher. Region five, where Johnson County is located, is currently at nine points, and region six where Linn County is located is at an eight.

Reynolds gave no indication that a shelter-in-place order could be coming any time soon. Both region five and six have an excess of available ventilators and hospital beds during this time.

“As we are seeing across all six RMCC regions, Iowa’s capacity to care for COVID-19 patients and access to available resources is very good at this time,” Reynolds said Thursday. “We are monitoring this daily and if a situation changes we are ready to respond.”

As the national stockpile for personal protective equipment is depleting, Reynolds highlighted the work of businesses and individuals in Iowa who are making things like masks and gowns to donate to hospitals and vulnerable Iowans. She said that some national shipments to Iowa have been delayed.

“The [personal protective equipment] is going to continue to be an issue, so right now we’re monitoring it carefully,” Reynolds said. “I put the plea out — help us — so we’re going to continue to monitor that.”

As of April 9, there are 125 additional positive COVID-19 cases for a total of 1,270 cases statewide. There were an additional two deaths, making for a total of 29 deaths. An additional 882 negative tests were reported, bringing that total to 13,703.

“If we all just dig deep and practice and do what we’ve asked you to do, we will continue to see the curve flatten,” Reynolds said. “We will start to see the numbers drop, and we will start to talk about how we dial back up this economy and start to open things back up instead of talking about closing things back down.”

 

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