Exclusive: Payment scheme concealed CARES Act funds for governor's staff

Federal funds used to cover salaries and benefits for Governor Kim Reynolds’ staffers were routed through the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, rather than going directly to the governor’s office.

Because of the unique arrangement, state agencies’ databases and published reports on expenditures from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act do not reveal that any funding supported the governor’s office. Instead, some show allocations from Iowa’s Coronavirus Relief Fund to Homeland Security, from which $448,449 was spent on “COVID Staffing” or “State Government COVID Staffing.”

That’s the exact dollar amount Reynolds approved to pay permanent employees on her staff for part of their work during the last three and a half months of the 2020 fiscal year. Other agencies that had staff working on the pandemic response from the State Emergency Operations Center, such as the Iowa Department of Public Health, did not receive CARES Act funding through the same indirect route.

The governor’s communications director Pat Garrett and chief of staff Sara Craig Gongol did not respond to six inquiries over a three-week period about how these payments were made and recorded.

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State moves forward on merging human services, public health programs

The state of Iowa is looking for a private company to help integrate programs of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) and Department of Public Health (IDPH).

Governor Kim Reynolds indicated this summer that she planned to merge many operations of the departments, which serve a combined total of more than 1 million Iowans. After Gerd Clabaugh announced plans to retire as IDPH director, Reynolds appointed DHS Director Kelly Garcia to serve simultaneously as interim director of public health, saying in a news release, “This is an opportunity to increase cooperation and collaboration between these two agencies to better serve Iowans.”

A Request for Proposal reveals more details about the planned scope of the reorganization, which is scheduled to begin early next year. Notably, control of infectious diseases is among the areas of the IDPH’s work that will be “excluded from the redesign.”

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An open letter to the Des Moines School Board

Dave O’Connor teaches at Merrill Middle School in Des Moines. -promoted by Laura Belin

On October 14, the president of the United States held a superspreader event at the Des Moines Airport for 6,000 mostly un-masked, non-socially distanced supporters. Governor Kim Reynolds was right at his side. He did it on the same day that our neighbors in Wisconsin, who are now at the epicenter of the pandemic, opened a field hospital with 500 beds to try to relieve pressure on their overtaxed hospital system, and only eight days after hospitalizations for COVID-19 reached an all-time high in Iowa–a record that has been surpassed multiple times since.

And just for good measure, the rally directly violated the governor’s own emergency proclamations, which require organizers of mass gatherings to “ensure at least six feet of physical distance between each group or individual attending alone.”

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The COVID fatigue factor

Ira Lacher explores the phenomenon of COVID fatigue, which is “no surprise to psychologists” despite the devastating impact of the pandemic. -promoted by Laura Belin

With more than 224,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 and perhaps another 25,000 more to join them in November, you would think just about everyone would consider the coronavirus pandemic to be the top issue in the election.

And, that reasonable conclusion would join others from the Bizarro World.

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Book excerpt: Killer Politics

Norman Brewer was a reporter and editor for the Des Moines Tribune from 1965 to 1978, then joined Gannett News Service in Washington, D.C. He also worked in The Des Moines Register bureau there and was director of employee communications at the Transportation Security Administration. -promoted by Laura Belin

In Norman Brewer’s novel Killer Politics: A Satirical Tale of Homegrown Terrorism, a Trump-like president inspires a white supremacist and his terrorist cell to attack civilians in a bid for civil war or martial law.

Excerpts from the novel, available on Amazon, follow.

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Kim Reynolds' commitment to "normalcy" is getting a lot of Iowans killed

Governor Kim Reynolds found a way to make a bad situation worse.

In the past month, Iowa’s coronavirus deaths have accelerated, while hospitalizations have nearly doubled, far surpassing the previous peak in early May.

Despite numerous warnings from experts that Iowa is on a dangerous path, Reynolds refuses to take any additional steps to slow community transmission of the virus. Instead, she is sticking with the “trust Iowans to do the right thing” playbook, confident that hospitals will be able to handle the influx of COVID-19 patients.

The numbers speak for themselves.

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