Iowa and the COVID-19 crisis

Nonpartisan analysis and perspectives for Iowans on state, local and federal responses to the coronavirus.

Iowa Fiscal Partnership and colleagues’ perspectives

Trouble spots in rural Iowa

Peter Fisher and David Osterberg have connected apparent trouble spots for the continued spread of COVID-19 in Iowa to locations of meat processing operations. See below and here.

Fiscal challenges ahead

The combined effect of the looming recession and the COVID-19 emergency will have a devastating effect on state and local budgets. Preliminary estimates of a tax revenue shortfall for Iowa of $895 million to $1.14 billion through July 2021 may understate the case. Iowa will need more help from Congress. See the policy brief from Peter Fisher.

Case, death counts climb

COVID-19 death reports in Iowa have risen to 721. Sixteen counties have deaths in double digits: Polk, Linn, Black Hawk, Muscatine, Woodbury, Tama, Dubuque, Dallas, Jasper, Marshall, Scott, Louisa, Wapello, Mahaska, Pottawattamie, and Buena Vista counties. As of Friday, 58 of the state’s 99 counties have had at least one death attributed to COVID-19.

Over two weeks, the daily average case increase has been 334. Data are updated throughout the day on the state site, making the current day incomplete and previous days subject to revision.

The total count of positive cases in Iowa as of Friday evening were over 30,400, rising about 2,200 over each of the previous two weeks.

Death reports rose to a total of 721 by Friday evening; the first reported death was on March 24. The current pace of increases in the death toll is slowing; deaths rose by 31 in the past two weeks (June 19-July 3) — but by more than that, 34, in the week before (June 12-19).

Housing assistance critical in COVID crisis

Rent and mortgage relief is sorely needed to prevent a wave of evictions and foreclosures, forcing families to double up or seek homeless shelters at a time when social isolation is still needed to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus. A new state program funded with federal relief dollars may not have set aside enough to meet needs, and the design of the program also will miss many families in need. See the backgrounder.

Economic challenges

IPP Senior Research Consultant Colin Gordon compared Iowa weekly unemployment claims data for the first 20 weeks of the 2007-2009 Great Recession with that of the last 20 weeks. As the graph above shows, only four weeks of the last 13 weeks are below the level of the worst week during the Great Recession. In those 13 weeks of 2020, the total of initial unemployment insurance claims is now above 350,000.

For more on this issue, see Gordon’s recent blog post, “Historically high: Jobless claims vs. Great Recession,” on

More on Iowa COVID-19 response issues

Stabilizing Iowa’s child care system

Even before the pandemic, legislators and the Governor agreed child care was in crisis. We knew the cost of care was out of reach for too many parents and that providers were woefully underpaid. The COVID-19 emergency only makes each of these challenges more acute. See the brief from the Child and Family Policy Center.

Big decisions, arbitrary metrics to make them

Peter Fisher’s policy brief exposes both questions about and deficiencies in the choice of data that Iowa is using to set policy on social distancing in the COVID-19 crisis. See the report.

IFP Statement: Bring Iowans in on more decisionmaking with greater transparency in the COVID-19 process. “It should not have taken an enterprising news reporter to coax out the short list of metrics that Governor Kim Reynolds and her administration are using to make decisions about public safety.”

Expanding SNAP access during COVID-19 crisis

Iowans thrive when they are able to put food on the table and make ends meet. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) plays a critical role. Iowa should continue to leverage SNAP in its response to the COVID-19 crisis. See IFP backgrounder by Natalie Veldhouse

Listen to economists: Protect health first

When even economists are pressing the point about public health, our leaders should pay attention. Now is not the time to talk about being “open for business” prematurely, as President Trump once suggested we do by Easter. See post by David Osterberg; also running as a guest opinion in the Quad-City Times.

Coping with a crisis

Winston Churchill had some thoughts on the subject. Iowa should pay attention. See post by Joseph Wilensky

New solutions needed long term

Iowa needs to move crisis-driven unemployment insurance improvements into the permanent UI structure. See post by Colin Gordon

A critical time for action in Iowa
Responsible federal actions also require a state response. See post by David Osterberg

Unemployment insurance
State actions on UI are welcome. What is next? See post by Peter Fisher

Medicaid and SNAP
An opportunity to bolster both Medicaid and SNAP. See post by Natalie Veldhouse

A lesson from the Recovery Act
State fiscal relief is needed. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Resources from our national partners

The Iowa Policy Project and the Child and Family Policy Center work with many organizations throughout the country on issues affecting the health of, and economic prosperity, for the people of our state — particularly those who can be most helped by inclusive public policy approaches. Here we will offer a selection of resources from some of those partners that Iowans might find helpful.

Fixing Unemployment Insurance in Response to COVID-19 (2-page PDF, from Women’s Law Center, National Employment Law Project, Economic Policy Institute, The Century Foundation, and the Center on Poverty and Inequality