Iowa lawmakers inch toward adjournment
Legislative leaders worked mostly behind the scenes this week crafting a massive tax relief package, setting the stage for adjourning the 2021 session potentially as early as next week.
House and Senate GOP leaders have been at odds over their must-do items on tax policy. The latest Senate bill, SF619, is a sweeping proposal that includes many of the priorities leaders from both chambers have wanted to include in tax reform this year. Among the bill’s chief provisions:
- Fully implementing income tax cuts passed in 2018 in SF2417, which reduces rates and the number of tax brackets.
- The tax changes were set to go into effect only if revenue targets were met.
- Eliminating what is known as “federal deductibility,” which allows taxpayers to deduct what they pay in federal taxes from their Iowa tax bill
- Shifting mental health services funding from local property taxes to the state
- Expanding the childcare tax credit to apply to taxpayers making up to $90,000. Currently, only those making up to $45,000 qualify for the credit.
- Phases out the inheritance tax over three years, with a full repeal in 2024
- Requires health insurers to pay providers the same rate for telehealth mental health services as they pay for an in-person visit
- Creates an Energy Infrastructure Revolving Loan Program to develop energy infrastructure.
Iowans receiving special pandemic unemployment will see payments end June 12, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday, saying it’s time for those who are able to get back to work. Reynolds cited the state’s low unemployment rate and a worker shortage affecting many Iowa businesses. Regular unemployment benefits will remain available to those who have lost their jobs.
“Federal pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs initially provided displaced Iowans with crucial assistance when the pandemic began,” Reynolds said in a statement. “But now that our businesses and schools have reopened, these payments are discouraging people from returning to work. Our unemployment rate is at 3.7 percent, vaccines are available to anyone who wants one, and we have more jobs available than unemployed people.”
The announcement applies to four pandemic related programs: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC).
COVID relief dollars provide meals to food-insecure Iowans
Food insecurity skyrocketed 51 percent in Iowa during the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic and disrupted the state’s agricultural supply chain according to a report released this week. The report highlighted efforts of the Feeding Iowans Task Force, established last year by Gov. Reynolds to combat food insecurity and identify gaps in the system.
The report found Iowa food banks distributed 25 percent more food in 2020 than the year before, and a state food assistance hotline reported record calls. The pandemic’s supply chain disruptions to Iowa’s agricultural sector were unprecedented, the report said, with Iowa farmers using alternative channels for distribution or sale of their products. Many other products were donated to the hunger relief effort:
- Beef Up Iowa and Pass the Pork helped connect producers with food insecure Iowans through donations to food banks and pantries.
- Turkey to Table turned a surplus of Iowa turkey products into more than 700,000 servings of protein for those in need.
- More than 100 grants were awarded for a Pack the Pantry effort to help local food pantries upgrade their refrigeration units to accommodate products such as meat, dairy and eggs.
- Food trucks helped serve more than 10,000 meals to older Iowans in the Des Moines area.
- Double Up Food Bucks helped Iowans maximize their SNAP food benefits when purchasing fresh produce at select grocers and farmers markets.
- A panel discussion at the World Food Prize Iowa Hunger Summit focused on collaborative methods to address short- and long-term food needs for at-risk populations.
The full report can be found here.