Funnel week ends, vaccination effort continues
By Ann Meyer
Thursday was the last day of funnel week. If a bill does not make it through committee by the end of this week, it is not eligible for consideration on the House floor. It was a busy week of subcommittee and committee work.
Last week, the Iowa House passed a COVID-19 relief package for Iowa taxpayers and businesses affected by COVID-19. This bill provides $128 million in tax relief to Iowans by exempting pandemic-related grants and unemployment benefits from state income tax. This bill will provide meaningful financial relief for Iowans hit hard by the pandemic. Since it was government that forced shutdowns which led to job and income loss, I believe that taxing pandemic relief money is not the right thing for Iowa.
The funds to pay for this come from the Taxpayer Relief Fund, which has $90.2 million currently in its account in FY 2021. The additional funds will come from the ending balance. After the December 2020 Revenue Estimating Conference, the FY 21 ending balance was projected to be $443.4 million.
COVID vaccine update
Effective Monday, March 8, those eligible for Phase 1B vaccination will include individuals 64 years of age and younger that are or might be at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to medical conditions listed at https://www.cdc.gov/…/people-with-medical-conditions.html.
Many of you have reached out about underlying conditions, and you will now be eligible for the vaccine.
This week, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced a new website, https://vaccinate.iowa.gov/, to provide additional resources to eligible Iowans seeking the COVID-19 vaccine. This website provides information about vaccine providers based on your ZIP Code, vaccine priority populations and eligibility, resources for Iowans age 65 and older and answers to frequently asked questions. Check out this website if you have any questions.
The state is also partnering with the phone service 211 to provide a dedicated team of vaccine navigators who will schedule appointments for Iowans age 65 and older. Iowans can begin calling 211 with questions starting March 8.
Additionally, IDPH announced that with the addition of the 25,600 weekly doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Iowa will be receiving over 100,000 doses of COVID vaccine each week. With these extra doses coming from the federal government, Iowa is able to move along the timeline to expanded population groups.
Iowa continues to vaccinate at record rates with 723,262 does already being administered as of last Wednesday. To put this in context, over the last year 364,892 Iowans have tested positive for COVID. The great work quickly vaccinating vulnerable Iowans shows in the dashboard information on coronavirus.iowa.gov with significantly decreased spread in nursing homes and hospitalizations.
State Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge, represents District 9 in the Iowa House of Representatives.