Iowa House: Thomas Gerhold, April 26, 2021

Hello District 75 from the State Capitol!

Thomas Gerhold

The Iowa Legislature is nearing the end of this year’s session, probably and hopefully either the end of April or the first week of May!

The House passed the Administration and Regulation budget, which includes $100 million for broadband internet expansion in Iowa. This makes a strong statement about Iowa being serious about getting much faster broadband to rural areas, especially in “broadband deserts”. This will also be a big boost for people who are able to work remotely, and also help people with telehealth. When this technology is finished, many more opportunities will open up or be created, and the possibilities are unlimited!

Also this week, the Iowa House released its Fiscal Year 2022 Health & Human Services Budget. This budget increases childcare rates by $13.4 million and addresses the “childcare cliff” by creating an “off ramp” to make it easier for the parents to climb the ladder of success without bearing a huge financial problem losing their childcare assistance entirely, all at once.

The HHS budget includes language requiring health insurers to reimburse for mental health services via telehealth at the same rate as in person – a big benefit to rural communities. The budget also includes:

–a $33.5 million rate increases for mental health providers and families through Medicaid for children’s mental health services, home-based habilitation, rural psychiatrists, and more. Iowa ranks 44th in the nation for psychiatrists per capita.

–a $52.7 million nursing home increase. Iowa’s 444 nursing homes were really under stress protecting the most vulnerable people from the Covid-19 virus.

–funds an additional 32 full time employees for the DHS field operations in this fiscal year and adds another 53 full time employees over the next 2 years to protect children when there is a suspicion of child abuse.

The Iowa House has the Bottle Bill, House File 814 under discussion currently, working on making it more economically beneficial for redemption sites. The current Bottle Bill started in 1979 with very little substantive changes since. A 2005 study (www.iowapolicyproject.org/2005docs/050316-BottleFacts1.pdf ) found Iowans returned 575 containers per capita per year. It’s estimated Iowans currently return 71 to 77% of the for-deposit containers.

I hope you all are and will be safe and healthy out there!

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