Iowa governor objects to "biased" federal COVID-19 funding formula

Governor Kim Reynolds and 21 of her Republican counterparts complained on February 27 that the latest Democratic COVID-19 relief package “punishes” their states.

It’s a strange take on a bill that would provide $350 billion to state and local governments across the country, including more than $2.5 billion to Iowa. In contrast, a smaller coronavirus response proposal from Republican members of Congress would allocate zero new dollars to state and local governments.

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Under Trump, farm subsidies soared and the rich got richer

Anne Schechinger: President Joe Biden and Congress must reform a wasteful and unfair farm subsidy system. This report first appeared on the Environmental Working Group’s website. -promoted by Laura Belin

Taxpayer-funded farm subsidies have long been skewed in favor of the richest farmers and landowners. But under the Trump administration, even more money went to the largest and wealthiest farms, further shortchanging smaller, struggling family farms.

The Environmental Working Group’s analysis of records from the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that subsidy payments to farmers ballooned from just over $4 billion in 2017 to more than $20 billion in 2020 – driven largely by ad hoc programs meant to offset the effects of President Trump’s failed trade war.

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Most Iowans in Congress supported latest COVID-19 package

The U.S. House and Senate on December 21 approved a $2.3 trillion package to fund the federal government through September 30, 2021 and provide approximately $900 billion in economic stimulus or relief connected to the coronavirus pandemic.

No one in either chamber had time to read the legislation, which was nearly 5,600 pages long, before voting on it. Statements released by Iowans in Congress, which I’ve enclosed below, highlight many of its key provisions. The unemployment and direct payments to families are clearly insufficient to meet the needs of millions of struggling Americans. Senate Republicans blocked aid to state and local governments, many of which are facing budget shortfalls. President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to push for a much larger economic stimulus package early next year.

The legislation headed to President Donald Trump’s desk includes some long overdue changes, such as new limits on “surprise billing” by health care providers for emergency care and some out-of-network care.

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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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Joni Ernst learned the wrong lesson from Chuck Grassley

Senator Joni Ernst shouldn’t be in this position.

Given Iowans’ tendency to re-elect incumbents and the state’s rightward drift this past decade, she should be running ten points ahead.

Instead, Iowa’s Senate race is universally seen as a toss-up. Ernst has led in only two polls released since the June primary. Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield has led in fourteen polls during the same period.

Not all of Ernst’s political problems are her own creation. The COVID-19 pandemic and President Donald Trump’s disastrous leadership have put at risk several GOP-held seats that once seemed safe.

But Ernst could have set herself up better to survive a tough environment for her party. Her most important strategic error was not following the example Chuck Grassley set as a 40-something first-term senator.

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