July 10, 2020 - 1:02 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — April 15th — normally that’s the date that strikes fear in the hearts of procrastinators all over the United States. But this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, JULY 15th is the deadline for filing your federal income tax returns.

The deadline for filing your 2019 Iowa income taxes is July 31st. Penalty and interest on Iowa tax due are waived through July 31st as well.

Many people filed their taxes this spring and had them done by the original April deadline, or have filed them in the time between the deadlines. But if you’re a procrastinator, you should know that you only have a few days left to file without penalty.

And if you owe tax, you only have a few days left to pay without penalty as well, barring any extenuating circumstances.

Nationwide–(RI)–A meat locker in Story City is the first in Iowa to be allowed to sell its products to customers in other states.

A new federal program lets state-inspected lockers get a U-S-D-A stamp on processed meat, so it can be sold across state lines. Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig says this opens up new markets for Iowa meat lockers as well as livestock and poultry producers.

(as said) “Iowa’s got a great brand for agriculture, as we know, and specially for meat production and so we think that’s something that we think can perform very well really all across the country,” Naig says.

This could broaden the range of Iowa beef, pork and poultry sold to restaurants in cities like Chicago and beyond that promote the farm-to-table concept. It also means Iowa-branded meat could be sold in regional grocery stores.

(as said) “Over the last couple of months we’ve had a lot of focus on the food and agriculture supply chain and meat in particular and so I think there’s a lot of interest on the part of consumers and restaurants and really all across the board in more options when it comes to sourcing meat,” Naig says, “and we’ve seen that in the fact that our meat lockers are very, very busy and we like that we think that there’s an upside for them to continue stay busy.”

Naig and his staff worked for nearly a year to ensure all state regulations and inspections met the federal program requirements. It meant buying some new equipment and additional training for the state’s meat and poultry inspectors.

(as said) “It does also require USDA to come into those lockers from time to time, but the day-to-day, ongoing operational inspections will be conducted by our team.”

Meat processing businesses that have fewer than 25 full-time employees can sign up for the federal program. Al’s Country Meat Locker in Calmar and Ohrt’s Smokehouse in Ionia have also qualified for the program. Naig says dozen other meat lockers that are eligible have applied.

(as said) “This is where I think there’s an opportunity: one for those existing meat lockers to expand, maybe hire some additional staff, make some equipment investments and some facility investments,” Naig says. “And we are hearing, too, of some real interest in some new facilities and folks getting into the business, so that’s an exciting thing for us to look at — expanding this market opportunity and the economic development that goes along with it.”

There are a couple of hundred meat lockers in the state and 68 of them are eligible for this federal program.

July 10, 2020 - 10:56 am - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa–(RI)–This week the state’s Test Iowa program has passed the 100-thousand mark in number of tests conducted.

Governor Kim Reynolds announced in April that a group of Utah companies were being paid 26-million dollars to supply the test kits. The first Test Iowa site opened April 25th in Des Moines.

(as said) “Last week, Test Iowa sites across the state surpassed the capacity of 3000 tests per day,” Reynolds says.

There are now twenty “Test Iowa” sites in the state. Some are drive-through sites. Others are set up in partnership with local hospitals and clinics. According to the governor, twenty-one percent of the COVID-19 tests that have been done in Iowa since March have been run through the Test Iowa program. Reynolds says Test Iowa is currently the state’s number one source for tests.

(as said) “As demand for testing continues to grow, Test Iowa appointments are filling up quickly, so even though we’ve far exceeded our capacity for the past two weeks, we’re mindful that we can push our capacity limits only so far,” Reynolds says. “While our volume of tests are in good supply, we are considering different ways to adjust operations at some of our test sites and at the State Hygenic Lab so that we can further expand capacity to meet the demands of Iowans that want to be tested.”

Iowans must use the Test Iowa app or call to schedule an appointment time for a COVID-19 test. Sites in Des Moines and Waukee account for 40 percent of the tests conducted through the Test Iowa program this month.

Northwest Iowa — Although precipitation was near normal in June, 35 percent of the state of Iowa, including portions of the KIWA listening area, are classified as “abnormally dry” according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows abnormally dry conditions in most of the western portion of Iowa, including portions of O’Brien, Sioux, Clay, Buena Vista, Cherokee and Plymouth counties, with portions of eight west-central counties classified as being in moderate drought, including western Plymouth and western Woodbury counties.

Statewide precipitation averaged 4.85 inches in June, or 0.17 inches less than the 30-year climatological average. However, here in western Iowa, we observed drier than normal conditions with precipitation deficits of up to four inches. On the other hand, much of eastern Iowa reported general rainfall totals from two to six inches above average, due in part to the remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobal, which moved through Iowa as a tropical depression on June 9. Cristobal is only the second tropical system on record to transverse Iowa, with the only other occurrence happening on September 11, 1900.

Iowa experienced warmer than normal conditions statewide during June with an average temperature of 72.9 degrees, 3.2 degrees below normal. This ties June 2020 with 1954 and 2005 as the 18th warmest June on record.

For a thorough review of Iowa’s water resource trends, go to www.iowadnr.gov/watersummaryupdate.

Northwest Iowa — The four northwesternmost Iowa counties reported six more COVID-19 cases on Thursday, according to the latest statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Sioux County was up four cases at 492. Lyon County was up one at 48. O’Brien County was up one at 92, and Osceola County was unchanged at 64.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has seven, Sioux County has 106, O’Brien County has 21, and Osceola has fourteen.

Recovery rate:

Lyon — out of 48 cases, 41 have recovered, for a rate of about 85%
Sioux — out of 492 cases, 386 have recovered, for a rate of about 78%
O’Brien — out of 92 cases, 71 have recovered, for a rate of about 77%
Osceola — out of 64 cases, 50 have recovered, for a rate of about 78%

Also, one death has been reported in these four counties since the beginning of the pandemic, that in O’Brien county on Tuesday, June 9th.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report (7/8/2020):

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 336, up 11
Cherokee 81, up 4
Buena Vista 1726, up 2
Clay 143, up 2
Dickinson 285, up 4

Minnesota counties:
Jackson 57, up 2
Nobles 1676, up 4
Rock 31, unchanged

South Dakota counties:
Minnehaha 3723, up 17
Lincoln 381, up 5
Union 140, up 2

Here are some density numbers from regional hot spots. These numbers do include people who have had COVID-19, and have since recovered.

In Buena Vista County, Iowa, one person in every 12 people has had COVID-19. Very close to that density is Nobles County, Minnesota, where one person in every 13 people has had it. Next in our region is Woodbury County with one case in every 31 people, and then Minnehaha County, South Dakota with one case in every 52 people.

In the four northwesternmost Iowa counties, Sioux County tops the density list at one case in 71 people. Osceola is next with one case per 94 people. In O’Brien County, one person in every 152 people has had COVID-19, and Lyon County reports a density of one case in every 251 people.

Statewide Iowa — U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says she supports letting businesses get a second federal COVID-19 relief grant that can be converted to a loan — if the business uses 60 percent of the money to cover payroll and employee benefits.

(As above) “We still do have $100 billion-plus sitting in the Paycheck Protection Program fund that has not been utilized or allocated to businesses yet,” Ernst says, “so it is possible and I am pushing for a second round for those heavily affected businesses — allow them to come back in and support their employees through the Paycheck Protection Program.”

President Trump has expressed interest in a second round of stimulus checks to individual Americans. House Democrats are onboard, but some Senate Republicans have expressed opposition. Ernst has been non-commital that specific proposal, but she says senators will develop some sort of second economic stimulus plan this summer.

(As above) “And we would anticipate seeing that maybe move through congress mid-July to early part of August,” Ernst says.

Congress is currently on recess. The Senate is to reconvene July 20th.

July 9, 2020 - 12:56 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Iowa’s junior Senator was in our area on Wednesday.

Senator Joni Ernst started the day in Sheldon, talking with local employers. Ernst says they discussed the Paycheck Protection Program and other ways that the government can continue supporting businesses and their employees as the economy is reopened. She also promoted her proposal to allow COVID-19 essential workers to keep more of what she calls their “hard-earned dollars.”

Next, the Ernst entourage traveled a few miles southwest to Hospers, where she visited Premium Iowa Pork. She heard from them about how COVID-19 is affecting their production. Ernst claims that she and the other Republican members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry are continuing to fight for relief for producers and to maintain a secure food supply chain.

Next on her agenda was a trip to the Little Rock area, where she met with Ryan Odens. Odens suffered a severe spinal cord injury after a pickup accident in August of 2000. But against the odds, he has been farming in Lyon County for over 20 years with the help of the Easterseals Iowa organization that offers help to people with disabilities — and a self-driving tractor. Ernst thanked Odens for sharing what she called his “story of resilience.”

Next on the Senator’s visit to our area was a trip to Sibley, where she visited the highest point in Iowa — Hawkeye Point. Ernst took a walking tour and climbed the observation deck. She tells us she heard directly from people who have been rehabilitating the site. She says it’s “incredible work.”

Senator Ernst finished up the day in Dickinson County. Emmet County was next on her list.

The Senator’s stops were not open to the public — to comply with social distancing.

Statewide Iowa — The number of Iowans filing a first-time unemployment claim jumped 28 percent last week. At the same time, the total number of Iowans getting unemployment benefits fell by five percent.

According to Iowa Workforce Development, nearly 10,700 people who had a job in Iowa filed an initial claim for unemployment last week. Over half of those who filed for unemployment were self-employed, independent contractors or working in manufacturing.

The state paid out nearly $32 million in unemployment benefits to about 135,000 out-of-work Iowans last week.

The industries with the most claims were Manufacturing (3,448), Industry Not Available – Self-employed, Independent Contractors, etc. (1,670), Health Care & Social Assistance (833), Accommodation & Food Services (586), and Retail Trade (519).

A total of $83,076,000 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits was paid during the week of June 28 – July 4, 2020. Since April 4, 2020, a total of $1,226,788,800 in FPUC benefits has been paid.

A total of $4,433,528.82 was paid in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits during the week of June 28 – July 4, 2020.

A total of $3,327,234 in benefits has been paid in Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits for the week of June 28 – July 4, 2020. Since May 27, 2020, a total of $25,197,874.39 in PEUC benefits have been paid.

Northwest Iowa — While many businesses and organizations are back to normal after helping flatten the COVID-19 hospitalization curve, some are still not back to normal, and events continue to fall.

Checking some situations around northwest Iowa, we found that the courthouses in the four northwest Iowa counties are all partially open.

In O’Brien County, Auditor Barb Rohwer says that at this time, appointments are required for everything at the courthouse. She says there is a drop box on the east side of the building by the flagpole, which is now available 24/7. She says they’re looking at relocating polling places for the November General Election because the small buildings that are normally used are not big enough spaces to allow for social distancing.

In Sioux County, their offices are open to the public from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays, through one entrance only. Employees are in their offices from 8 to 4:30, however, and are available by phone or by appointment during that time. Courthouse officials say people are encouraged to wear a mask, but if you’re sick, they want you to stay home. Glass barriers are in place. There is a dropbox in place. And, at this time, the driver’s license personnel are only available at the Sioux Center location, at the Centre Mall, and NOT at the courthouse. However, other divisions of the Treasurer’s Office are still at the courthouse, such as motor vehicle and property tax.

In Osceola County, their offices are open, but it’s best to call ahead, as the situation keeps changing. They do have drop boxes in their drive-thru and entryway.

In Lyon County, offices are open at the courthouse, but appointments are necessary for the Treasurer’s office departments such as motor vehicle, driver’s license, and property tax.

All the counties advise that the clerks of court are a state office, so they have their own rules, which as of now state that they are to work behind closed doors. If you have business in the clerks’ offices, they ask you to call.

We also asked what the situation is in a number of northwest Iowa towns.

In Sheldon, the Main Street Cinemas are closed until they can obtain new releases. Chamber Director Shantel Oostra advised that it would be a good idea to call ahead if you have business in Sheldon offices. She says some fast food dining rooms may be closed as well.

In Sibley, we are told that everything is pretty well back to “normal”. They remind us that nursing homes continue to be closed to family and visitors.

In Hull, all businesses are open that were once closed. Hull Chamber officials tell us the Hull Historical Museum is still closed. They will be resuming their Chamber meetings in July.

Sioux Center Chamber officials say that most everything is back to normal there.

Rock Valley Chamber officials tell us that with the exception of religious services having to make adjustments, most everything there is normal as well. We are told some churches there are having to have more services and restrict attendants to people whose last names begin with a letter in a certain range of the alphabet, or similar restrictions, in order to comply with social distancing.

Northwest Iowa — The four northwesternmost Iowa counties reported 14 more COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, according to the latest statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Sioux County was up eight cases at 488. Lyon County was up two at 47. O’Brien County was up two at 91, and Osceola County was up two at 64.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has six, Sioux County has 108, O’Brien County has 22, and Osceola has fifteen.

Recovery rate:

Lyon — out of 47 cases, 41 have recovered, for a rate of about 91%
Sioux — out of 488 cases, 380 have recovered, for a rate of about 79%
O’Brien — out of 91 cases, 69 have recovered, for a rate of about 78%
Osceola — out of 64 cases, 49 have recovered, for a rate of about 79%

Also, one death has been reported in these four counties since the beginning of the pandemic, that in O’Brien county on Tuesday, June 9th.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report (7/7/2020):

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 325, unchanged
Cherokee 77, up 1
Buena Vista 1724, up 7
Clay 141, up 4
Dickinson 281, up 15

Minnesota counties:
Jackson 55, unchanged
Nobles 1672, unchanged
Rock 31, unchanged

South Dakota counties:
Minnehaha 3706, up 21
Lincoln 376, up 5
Union 138, up 1

Here are some density numbers from regional hot spots. But keep in mind, that these numbers do include people who have had COVID-19, and have since recovered.

Buena Vista County, Iowa has a density of about one case in 12 people. Very close to that density is Nobles County, Minnesota, where there is one case in 13 people. Next in our region is Woodbury County with one case in every 31 people, and then Minnehaha County, South Dakota with one case in 52 people.

In the four northwesternmost Iowa counties, Sioux County tops the density list at one case in 72 people. Osceola is next with one case per 94 people. Next is O’Brien County with one in 152 people, and Lyon County reports a density of one case in every 251 people.