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Ringgold County had the rare distinction of having visits from both of Iowa’s U.S.
Senators within an hour of each other Tuesday morning.
Ernst at courthouse
Sen. Joni Ernst met with a dozen invited constituents at 8 a.m. in the county courthouse assembly room to discuss impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local economy as well as other issues.
Local officials had been asked to restrict attendance at the event due to COVID concerns.
Conversation began with discussion surrounding the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). Ernst said the PPP funneled approximately $5 billion to Iowa to help employer retain their employees in light of the mandated shutdown of many businesses. She said she hoped a second PPP would be coming if businesses were again forced to close due to an increase in COVID cases.
Ringgold County administrator Gordon Winkler said the hospital benefited from the PPP. Even with revenues down approximately 46 percent over April and May, the hospital was not forced to furlough any employees, although some hours were cut back.
Clearview Homes administrator Matt Routh reported a similar impact at his facilities. While new admissions were down, staffing was at an all-time high due to the need to keep residents as separated as possible. He added both the residents and staff have “been great” reacting to all the changes in their normal routines.
Mike Kemery asked what support can local governments expect when their year-end tax revenues are down sharply due to COVID restrictions.
Ernst replied currently funds from the CARES Act cannot be used to backfill lost revenues. However, she hopes terms of the act can be changed to allow local officials to use unused funds to soften the blow of lost revenue.
Brad Elliott stressed the importance of bringing high speed broadband Internet to rural Iowa as many Iowans are relying on online access for working from home and operating home-based businesses.
Ringgold County Economic Development Director Jodie Geist echoed Elliott’s point, stating that access to broadband Internet is another enticement for bringing new residents to Ringgold County.
MAC elementary principle Chris Elwood told Ernst of the district’s plans for the upcoming school year, including refitting buildings with touchless faucets and toilets, providing technology access to students and the success of the recent summer school session.
District 24 Iowa House Representative Cecil Dolecheck reported that, due to good management, the state’s finances appear to be good shape considering the loss of revenue due to the pandemic.
On a different topic, Ernst said the USDA is currently mounting an investigation into the significant difference between what cattle producers earn per head versus what the meatpackers receive for their finished products.
Grassley at Glendennings
U.S. Senator Charles Grassley met with approximately a dozen invited individuals at Glendenning Motors in Mount Ayr at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
As with Sen. Ernst’s visit, Sen. Grassley’s staffed asked that attendance be restricted to employees and invited guests.
Upon Grassley’s arrival, Paul Glendenning took the senator on a tour of the Glendenning facility, introduced him to the company’s staff, and provided a history of the business.
Company founder Lloyd Glendenning was even able to attend the senator’s visit sitting a pickup driven by Mount Ayr Health Care admistrator Travis Hinz.
Following the tour, the group congregated in the Glendenning showroom for a question-and-answer session with Grassley.
The senator was asked to give his opinion when the COVID crisis might finally come to an end.
Grassley replied that while vaccine trials are already underway, it may take three or four years for the country to get over its fear. A better question might be, he said, how can we bring certainty to efforts to curtail the virus. Even when approved, vaccines cannot reach enough people fast enough to calm the fear factor.
“What we need to do now is bring confidence to the country,” he said.
In response to a question about the government-mandated shutdown of the economy, Grassley admitted “if we knew then what we know now, we might do things differently.”
Paul Glendenning asked Grassley to comment on the atmosphere of hatred and divisiveness gripping the country at this time.
It was Glendenning’s opinion that the national media was driving much of the divisiveness with its coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement and the destruction of historic statues.
“Where do we draw the line to stop the rioting and destruction?” he asked.
Grassley agreed a biased media out to discredit President Trump was much to blame.
“There’s a vast group of people who want to change America,” he said. “[Joe] Biden wants to transform America. I’d rather preserve America.”
The visits by both senators were part of their annual 99-county tours of the state.