Governor will struggle to justify CARES Act funds for staff salaries

Governor Kim Reynolds used $448,449 in federal COVID-19 relief funds to cover a shortfall in her office budget without documenting that 21 of her staffers were “substantially dedicated” to the pandemic response, a state audit determined.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General asked state auditors in January 2021 to review whether the spending complied with rules governing the use of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds. Bleeding Heartland was first to report in September 2020 on CARES Act payments supporting the governor’s permanent staffers, and reported exclusively last December on how documents were altered to make a “FY 2020 Shortfall” in the governor’s office budget appear to be “COVID-19 Personnel Costs.”

State Auditor Rob Sand warned the Reynolds administration in October 2020 that without adequate documentation, COVID-19 relief funds used to pay governor’s staff salaries might need to be repaid to the federal government. The report issued this week advised the governor to return the money to Iowa’s Coronavirus Relief Fund “for other eligible and supported uses prior to the December 31, 2021 deadline.”

The governor’s spokesperson Alex Murphy told reporters the office is “now working with Treasury to provide them documentation” to support the CARES Act spending.

That’s easier said than done.

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Grassley waives off Trump's efforts to overturn 2020 election

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Democratic staff on October 7 published the most extensive report to date on how President Donald Trump and his allies pressured the Department of Justice to help overturn the 2020 presidential election. The interim report and newly-released transcripts from the committee’s interviews with three former senior DOJ officials provide many details on the criminal conspiracy that played out in plain sight last December and January.

Also on October 7, Judiciary’s ranking Republican, Senator Chuck Grassley, released the minority staff’s report on the same investigation. In this 140-page dispatch from bizarro world masquerading as a “factual summary” of DOJ officials’ testimony, Trump “did not exert improper influence on the Justice Department,” and did not use the department to overturn the election. Rather, his “concerns centered on ‘legitimate complaints and reports of crimes’ relating to election allegations.”

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Governor taps American Rescue Plan for IT project predating pandemic

Governor Kim Reynolds has allocated $13 million from the state’s American Rescue Plan funds for a data project that has been in the works since 2019.

Last year, the governor approved a request from the state’s Office of Chief Information Officer (OCIO) to pay for the Master Data Management Program with $13 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. But those funds were never spent, according to pandemic spending reports and documents obtained through public records requests.

OCIO recently transferred the $13 million earmarked for the data management project back to the agency that administers Iowa’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, spokesperson Cayanna Reinier told Bleeding Heartland on September 29. She added that OCIO is “in the process of restarting” the project and “looking forward to moving ahead” with it, now that the governor’s office has approved the use of American Rescue Plan funds.

It’s far from clear this program is an eligible expense under the latest federal relief package.

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VA vaccine mandate won't apply to Iowa Veterans Home

Staff at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, where a recent COVID-19 outbreak killed two fully vaccinated residents, are not subject to a new vaccine mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced on July 26 that coronavirus vaccinations are now required for “Title 38 VA health care personnel — including physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors — who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities, visit VHA facilities or provide direct care to those VA serves.”

The Iowa Veterans Home is a state-run facility, but it receives some federal funding, is certified by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and has residents who use VA health care. At least 900 employees work at the Marshalltown facility, which is Iowa’s largest nursing home. Families and guardians were informed in late June that 70 percent of staff had already been vaccinated for COVID-19. That would leave more than 250 unprotected by any coronavirus vaccine.

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Federal government can fix cannabis scheduling problem without new law

Carl Olsen sent the letter enclosed below to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. -promoted by Laura Belin

Cannabis_Reform@finance.senate.gov

Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act
GAI21675 4LN Discussion Draft S.L.C.

Modern state, national, and international drug laws were designed to be flexible.  Instead of statutory classification of drugs, classification is an administrative process called scheduling.  The scheduling of drugs can be adjusted by administrative processes without the need for further legislation or renegotiated international treaties.

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Governor bashes CDC, blames immigrants for COVID-19 spread

As the more transmissible Delta variant causes COVID-19 cases to rise in all 50 states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control changed its guidance for fully vaccinated individuals on July 27. The CDC now recommends that they “wear a mask indoors in public” in areas “of substantial or high transmission.” In addition, anyone living with unvaccinated or immunocompromised household members, or those at higher risk of severe disease, “might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission.”

Despite having no science background, Governor Kim Reynolds bashed the new guidance as “not grounded in reality or common sense.” Only a few hours earlier, she had absurdly suggested that immigrants entering Texas might be to blame for accelerating community spread of COVID-19.

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