2020 Session Pause- Week 9

 

Legislative Update:

On Thursday 5/14 the Legislative Council voted for the Legislature to reconvene on Wednesday, June 3 following the June primary. We understand they will spend the first 3 days working through committees that need to finish their work to meet the Second funnel deadline left undone before the session pause. Then on June 8th, they will transition to floor work all the while working on their budgets, which we understand are currently under construction. We expect them to keep their return very short and productive while planning to return for no more than two weeks.

Legislative leaders also released the following guidelines for when the Legislature returns:

  • Encouraging members and staff to stay home if they are sick, have a fever or any symptoms, or have compromised immune systems.
  • Requiring staff members and the public to undergo a health screening before entering the Capitol.
  • Recommending that all individuals follow social distancing guidelines issued by the Department of Public Health.
  • Recommending the use of facemasks when unable to properly social distance, as recommended by the CDC. Facemasks will be provided to those who want one.
  • Deploying hand sanitizer stations throughout the Capitol, at entrances to the building, and the House and Senate chambers.
  • Limiting individuals on the House floor to only Representatives and necessary staff as deemed appropriate by supervisors.

The House and Senate will hold committee meetings in their respective chamber and livestream through the legislative website. Members of the public will be strongly encouraged to submit written comments on legislation for committees, similar to how they facilitate public hearings. Any subcommittees will be held as a Committee of the Whole, meaning the entire committee will be a part of the subcommittee as opposed to three members.

This week the Legislative Services Agency (LSA) released a State of Iowa Financial Update. Based on the information available at this time, the expenditure limitation for FY21 is estimated to be $8.3 billion. LSA estimates net built-in and anticipated expenditure changes for FY21 total $431 million. Remember this is LSA’s assessment, not the Revenue Estimating Committee’s (REC).

 

Iowa’s COVID-19 Cases

Rolling data updates are now posted on the State’s coronavirus website and Iowans are encouraged to check there for more details. As of Monday (5/18) this is the following information available through the State’s coronavirus website. We are 11 weeks into the pandemic being documented in Iowa. There are 14,955 positive cases in 97 counties, 355 deaths total, and 7,324 have recovered in Iowa for a 49% recovery rate. Over 100,000 Iowans have been tested total, meaning 1 in 31 Iowans have been tested. There are now 36 confirmed long-term care facility outbreaks.

There are status reports of monitoring and testing of COVID-19 in Iowa 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.

 

State Updates

Reopening:

  • On Wednesday 5/13 the Governor announced the newest steps in reopening the state. The reopenings which began on May 1 were extended statewide. The proclamation allowed restaurants, gyms and fitness facilities, salons, barbershops, and massage therapy services to reopen. This proclamation does not include casinos or bars, bowling alleys, playgrounds or recreational facilities in addition to other things. Here is the Link to the full proclamation.
  • On Monday 5/11 IDPH changed their official recommendations on travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, so that Iowans are no longer encouraged to self-isolate for 14 days after traveling out of state.
  • On Tuesday the Governor stated that the regulatory relief through the emergency declaration will likely ONLY be in place through the end of the month.

Testing & Treatment:

  • On Saturday 5/16 another Test Iowa site opened in Storm Lake. There are now 8 total sites open across the State. They will be continued through Saturday, 5/24.
  • The federal emergency use authorization allows Remdesivir to be distributed in the U.S. It has been approved for use on both adults and children who are hospitalized. Iowa received 400 vials. An individual patient requires up to 11 vials for treatment. The vials will be distributed by the State Hygienic Lab based on a number of factors including the number of patients hospitalized in an area, trends and disease activity, and available resources. The FDA will provide detailed fact sheets for health care patients and providers.
  • On Thursday 5/14 the Governor announced that the Test Iowa tests were validated by the State Hygienic Lab with over 90% accuracy. Over 400,000 have completed the online assessment and over 4,000 Iowans have been notified of their results. Now that the Test Iowa system has been validated, the parameters to qualify for testing will be expanded. The estimated daily capacity is now 3,000 with the Test Iowa tests and 2,000 through the State Hygienic Lab, for a total of 5,000 tests daily.

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C):

  • On Monday 5/18 the Governor confirmed cases of MIS-C in Eastern Iowa, which were originally confirmed by the a MercyOne spokesperson. The CDC has linked this rare condition to COVID-19. Symptoms include a persistent fever, inflammation, rash, and gastrointestinal issues. IDPH has named MIS-C a mandatory reportable condition in Iowa.

Resources:

  • On Tuesday 5/12 Director Flinn, Director of Homeland Security, provided an update on the Crisis Counseling funding and program. The Dept. of Homeland Security with the Dept. of Human Services submitted the application today for dispersal of funds to five providers across the state at no cost to the patients. The five providers will be able to refer patients to local providers. Services will be continued for a set period of time after the emergency proclamation comes to an end.

Unemployment:

  • On Thursday, 5/14 the Iowa Workforce Development released the unemployment insurance claims report for the week of 5/3 – 5/9. A total of 15,411 initial claims were filed. The industries with the most claims remain manufacturing, health care and social assistance, and self-employed/independent contractors. Over $108 million in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits has been paid, with over $547 million total in benefits paid out.

Economy:

  • On Friday 5/15 the Iowa Economic Development Authority released a new survey on COVID-19 Business Impact and Recovery. This is a follow-up to the mid-March survey. The survey deadline is Friday, 5/22 at 5pm. Please share with others as this will give direction to IDED where they need to focus recovery resources.
  • Farm Bureau Federation reported a total of 627 family farm bankruptcy filings for the year reporting period ending in March 2020. This is a 23% increase from the previous reporting year. Iowa had 37 filings.

Health Care Coverage:

  • The IRS released new guidance allowing certain mid-year insurance changes for the 2020 calendar year. Employers may choose to allow employees to make one or more of the following mid-year changes:
    • New election for employer-sponsored health coverage on a prospective basis if the employee initially declined coverage.
    • Changes to employer-sponsored health coverage.
    • Revoke employer-sponsored health coverage on a prospective basis, so long as the employee attests in writing they have comprehensive coverage or will immediately enroll in such coverage.
    • Revoke an election, make a new election, or decrease/increase an existing election regarding a health flexible spending account or a dependent care assistance program on a prospective basis.

Public Assistance Programs:

  • On Wednesday 5/13 the Council on Human Services met to hear updates on the DHS COVID-19 response.
    • Through the CARES Act the $476,000 to Iowa’s Child Welfare Services will be distributed to increasing group and shelter daily rates, technology grants, and funding to families who have a foster child test positive to COVID-19 for associated medical travel and cleaning.
    • The State’s Food Assistance program has developed a plan to increase food assistance to EBT card to the max for the months of April and May and will assess doing the same for the month of June, in accordance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Re-certification for eligibility has been pushed off for 6 months and the food assistance work requirements have been suspended at this time. Funding for these programs will come federally.
    • Medicaid Director Mike Randol provided an update on DHS resources including an updated Iowa Medicaid COVID-19 Provider FAQ and Civil Money Penalties Funding for long-term care facilities.
    • Director Randol stated that he and Dir. Garcia will assess telehealth policy following the pandemic. There has been an increase in Well Child visits via telehealth.
    • IME reported for the MCO second quarterly report for FY 20 which covers October-December 2019. This report noted increased grievances and appeals. The MCOs attributed that to the end of change of enrollment. They anticipate a decrease in the third quarter report. Iowa Total Care set up their claims incorrectly, so their claims system had to be reconfigured.
    • The $44 million that was withheld from Iowa Total Care has not been distributed at this time. There is a third-party audit underway on the payment issue of providers as there are continued issues.
    • Garcia announced that the Glenwood Facility staff and patients will receive a comprehensive COVID-19 test completely by the end of 5/16.

Child Care:

  • 5/8 DHS released a COVID-19 Childcare Sustainability Plan. This includes allocation of the $31.8 million from the CARES Act. The funds will be distributed to members of essential workforce and the child care providers. The plan includes an overview of COVID-19’s impact, federal funding, sustainability strategies, provides examples of regional neighboring states’ actions, and organizational recommendations.

Education:

  • On Tuesday 5/12 the Governor, when asked about school funding, announced Dept. of Education is looking to address funding for schools as schools will have the opportunity to return for an earlier start date. DOE is considering transferring contract days over from this school year to the next school year.