On Thursday 4/9 the Legislative Council convened by teleconference and officially voted to extend the suspension of session through April 30th.
Legislators discussed the outlook on policy bills and the timing of session to be addressed upon their return. Sen. Whitver stated he has encouraged Senate Republicans to continue to work with their House colleagues to prioritize policy bills and that he didn’t think they would need to meet for a month to finish their work. Sen. Whitver cautioned that they should not be quick to adjourn after their return because they still have policy issues that need to be addressed including issues pertaining to the federal CARES Act as they determine how those revenues can be used and what measures the state may need to take.
Rep. Prichard asked several questions and suggested the Legislature should also consider having the REC meet again to make revenue adjustments before legislators return. Sen. Whitver said that leadership has not determined whether the REC should be convened again. Finally, he said that the state economy needs to be restarted before the REC will be able to make a meaningful revenue estimate.
Relevant COVID-19 Updates:
Iowa’s COVID-19 Cases
As of Monday (4/13) we are 6 weeks into this pandemic being documented in Iowa. As of today there are 1,710 positive cases in 82 counties, 43 deaths total, 3,565 tests available at the State Hygienic Lab, 142 hospitalized, and 741 have recovered in Iowa. 18,696 Iowans have been tested total. The projected peak, at this time, is end of April, but the University of Iowa is developing a model with updated information and recommendations later this week with projections.
There are status reports of monitoring and testing of COVID-19 in Iowa is provided by IDPH and can be found here. In addition, a public hotline has been established for Iowans with questions about COVID-19. The line is available 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431.
- On Wednesday 4/8 the Governor and Iowa Economic Development Authority announced that the Small Business Relief Grants were awarded to 503 small businesses Tuesday evening. Grants ranged from $5,000 to $25,000. IEDA will not open a new round of applications, but businesses that previously applied will be considered for the next round of funds. The program was expanded from $4 million to $24 million, utilizing the state’s economic emergency fund and IEDA budget. For full information on the program and a list of recipients, click here.
- On Thursday 4/9 the Iowa Workforce Development announced that if unemployment insurance trust fund reaches a balance of $950 million, the state will start charging employers’ accounts for unemployment claims. On Thursday the balance was at $1.13 billion. For additional Pandemic Unemployment Assistance information visit the IWD website.
- Iowa Workforce Development has online applications for the federal CARES benefits for self-employed, independent contractors, nonprofit employees, and state unemployment benefits.
- On Friday 4/10 the Governor announced the creation of the Feeding Iowa Task Force, which is tasked with identifying gaps in the food bank and meal systems. This comes in response to higher rates of need at food banks.
- On Friday 4/10 the Iowa Medical Director issued a PPE Shortage Order. This order requires certain entities to reduce their use of PPE, including utilizing telemedicine, and cancelling all elective procedures. This directive includes reuse guidelines of PPE. If necessary, crisis guidelines will be used to extend PPE use. PPE will continue to be administered by the State to those health care facilities with the greatest shortage, and facilities are still encouraged to order through their wholesalers. For full information on the Iowa PPE Shortage Order click here. For CDC guidelines on how to wear and remove PPE click here.
- On Friday, 4/10 the Governor signed a new proclamation continuing the State Public Health Emergency Declaration, which also provides additional regulatory relief including giving health facilities greater flexibility, removing certain in-person regulatory requirements, and permitting community colleges and school districts to adjust to the suspension of in-person instruction. For the full text, click here.
- On Monday 4/13 the Governor confirmed that Abbott rapid mobile testing machines are being distributed by the Iowa Dept. of Public Health to long-term care facilities and select other health facilities.
Health Care Update
Below is a high-level health care update related to COVID-19, based on information from CDC, CMS, U.S. Dept. of HHS, Iowa DHS, Iowa Medicaid Enterprise, and the Governor’s Office.
- This week CMS announced a new Medicare policy that would allow for home transfusions.
- As of Tuesday 4/7 CMS has approved about $34 billion in payments to Medicare providers within the past week through the agency’s Accelerated and Advanced Payment Program.
- On Wednesday 4/8 CMS issued a series of updated guidance documents focused on infection control in a variety of in-patient and outpatient care settings. Click here for the press release.
- On Thursday 4/9 HHS announced the first contract for ventilator production under the Defense Production Act and expanded access to personal protective equipment (PPE).
- On Thursday 4/9 HHS announced that pharmacists can now test for COVID-19 under the PREP Act.
- On Thursday 4/9 CDC released updated information on Outpatient and Ambulatory Care Settings, Inpatient Obstetric Settings, and Interim Clinical Guidance for Management of COVID-19 patients.
- On Thursday, 4/9 CMS temporarily suspended rules, including allowing occupational therapists from home health agencies can now perform initial assessments on homebound patients and allows home health nurses to provide more direct patient care.
- On Friday, 4/10 the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services announced it is beginning delivery of $30 billion funding for providers from the CARES Act. All providers that received Medicare fee-for-service reimbursements in 2019 are eligible.
- The updated Iowa Medicaid COVID-19 provider toolkit can be found here.