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Iowa Gov. Reynolds updates Monday storm impact, back-to-school progress

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds
Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 9:45 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2020 at 10:57 AM CDT
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(WOWT) - Gov. Kim Reynolds announced during her news conference Tuesday that she had declared disaster areas in several Iowa counties following Monday’s powerful storm.

The governor showed images of damaged buildings and crops. Counties have to request the designation, which allows state resources to be made available, she said.

Some COVID-19 patients were forced to evacuate, and some Test Iowa sites were shut down, particularly in the Davenport area, Reynolds said. Three of the state’s eight mobile coronavirus testing sites — in Marshalltown, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport — were temporarily closed Tuesday after suffering storm damage.

Reynolds said she didn’t believe any COVID-19 tests were damaged, but that she would let Iowans know if any tests were affected.

She said 450,000 are still without power; at yesterday’s peak, 550,000 Iowans were experiencing outages. In Linn County, 97% of customers have no power.

Reynolds reminded Iowans that a state grant program provides grants of up to $5,000 for households that meet income criteria to assist with home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food, and temporary housing expenses. The grant application and instructions are available on the Iowa Department of Human Services website.

Iowans in disaster areas can also get assistance through the Disaster Case Management program. There are no income eligibility requirements for this program, but applications must be submitted within 180 days of the governor’s disaster proclamation.

Back-to-school update

The Indianola schools superintendent was scheduled to speak during Tuesday’s update, but will speak at Thursday’s news conference instead, Reynolds said.

In the meantime, the governor said, the Iowa Department of Education has been working with certain school districts in the state to find a solution to some of the requirements and criteria that were presenting obstacles to reopening at 50% in-school learning, as the state is requiring. Iowa officials are working to get those districts into compliance with the Iowa requirements, and in some cases, found that specific districts weren’t versed in the specifics required, so state officials are helping them work through those, according to Dr. Ann Lebo, who heads the state’s education department.

Iowa is requiring that at least 50% of instruction time take place in the classrooms, Reynolds said.

Reynolds also confirmed that Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has been traveling with Vice President Mike Pence and was expected to be visiting Iowa sometime this week.

State officials have been having calls with education officials across the state to keep them informed as they work to make plans for the school year.

Unemployment extension

Reynolds also talked about the state’s efforts to figure out how to implement President Trump’s promise to extend bonus unemployment payments of $400. She said she was hoping Congress could come to an agreement on the issue, and take the burden off of states.

“We need to get politics out of this,” she said.

Watch Tuesday’s news conference

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