Iowans who quit over unsafe conditions may still receive unemployment

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend acknowledged on April 30 that Iowans who refuse to go back to their jobs because of unsafe working conditions will not automatically be excluded from receiving unemployment payments.

However, she warned that “it takes more than a mere assertion by the employee” to qualify for benefits under those circumstances.

Continue Reading...

New Iowa unemployment claims set third straight weekly record

The scale of the economic collapse caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is beginning to come into view. The national economy may contract by 40 percent in the second quarter, with unemployment reaching 20 percent. One nationwide survey published this week indicated that 33 percent of voters–including 52 percent of respondents under age 45–have either lost their job, had work hours reduced, or been furloughed.

Iowa’s latest unemployment figures show yet another record number of new claims.

Continue Reading...

COVID-19 causing Iowa unemployment claims to skyrocket

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is causing massive economic disruption as many workplaces close and consumers scale back their normal activities. Economists are predicting a “sharp increase in the unemployment rate nationally.”

The state agency that handles Iowa’s unemployment payments has been receiving as many new claims in a day as they would normally receive “in a busy month.”

Continue Reading...

What's going on at the Iowa Department of Revenue?

Governor Kim Reynolds appointed former Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen as director of the Iowa Department of Revenue on February 22, only six weeks after she had named Adam Humes to lead the agency. A late Friday afternoon news release did not explain the reason for the change, saying only that Humes “has decided to pursue other opportunities.”* Paulsen will start work this coming Monday. Leadership transitions at state agencies typically are weeks or months in the making.

Humes’ predecessor, Courtney Kay-Decker, also left under odd circumstances. Appointed by Governor Terry Branstad in 2011, she sounded excited to continue to lead the department after the 2018 election. But in early December, Kay-Decker announced her resignation, effective at the start of the new year.

Continue Reading...

Reminder: State employees can't boost the Reynolds/Gregg campaign at work

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend instructed all her agency’s employees today “to be mindful of state and federal guidelines regarding prohibitions of participation in political activities while on state time or using state assets.”

The action followed Bleeding Heartland’s inquiry about a September 29 e-mail from an operations manager to more than 60 Iowa Workforce Development colleagues, recruiting volunteers for the Kim Reynolds/Adam Gregg campaign under the subject heading, “A Message from Governor Reynolds’ Office.”

State law prohibits using “public moneys for political purposes.” Administrative rules written to implement that portion of the Iowa Code forbid public employees from using public resources “to expressly advocate the nomination, election, or defeat of a candidate,” or “to solicit votes, engage in campaign work.”

Continue Reading...

Beth Townsend's embarrassing defense of phony job numbers

“Phony number” graphic created by Dave Swenson

I was encouraged when Beth Townsend became Iowa Workforce Development director early this year. The previous director, Teresa Wahlert, was one of Governor Terry Branstad’s worst appointees; I suspect her record for legal entanglements involving an agency director for the State of Iowa will never be surpassed. In contrast, I’d heard consistently good feedback about Townsend’s work as executive director of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. The new director has taken several steps to bring Iowa Workforce Development’s operations in line with federal labor laws.

Which makes it even more disappointing to see Townsend sell one of the biggest lies of Branstad’s long, long stint as governor, first in her agency’s annual budget presentation, and now in the editorial pages of Iowa’s largest newspapers.

Continue Reading...
View More...