IPP Statement: In troubled times, focus on the common good and Iowa values

June 2, 2020

IOWA CITY, Iowa (June 2, 2020) — The Iowa Policy Project released the following statement today:

As the Iowa Legislature prepares to resume its 2020 session in the darkest days many of us have witnessed, we call upon lawmakers to set aside business as usual and to focus clearly on the common good of the people of our state. We as a state fail to fulfill our potential when Black Iowans are unsafe. We fail when low-wage and immigrant workers lack the protections they need to do their jobs safely. By passing public policy that advances racial equity, we create a more prosperous Iowa for everyone.

It is impossible to resume activity at the State Capitol without recognizing the human toll of systemic and even violent racism, COVID-19, and the ensuing economic crisis. This perfect storm shines a light on our threatened health and economic security, longstanding history of racism, and historical inequities in access to basic needs.

If we are to honor our proud moments supporting abolition, equal rights, open government, free speech, and access to public education and opportunity, we also must own Iowa’s racial disparities in economic opportunity and outcomes. These long predate the disproportionate toll of COVID-19 on workers and communities of color. The disparities are not an accident but rather shaped by our policies.

We must assertively expand opportunity, and ensure that those directly impacted by policy issues are not only at the table, but central to decision making.

Well over 500 Iowans have died during the current coronavirus pandemic. By the time lawmakers gavel in on Wednesday, 20,000 positive cases will have been identified. One in five working Iowans have filed an unemployment claim since mid-March, and are either surviving on UI benefits or waiting for their claims to be processed.

Frontline workers were essential before the onset of COVID-19 and their vital contribution must be recognized by more than thanks. We need to make their paychecks bigger. Health care, child care and food assistance that go to every family with kids should be strengthened. Budget “shortfalls” are often by design, intentionally cutting revenues by giving tax breaks to the powerful. While COVID-19 impacts on the budget will be real, they do not excuse a refusal to seek resources to serve all Iowans.

We call upon our state legislators, the Governor, and advocates in the coming days and weeks to summon the courage to open their minds and vision to something greater: an Iowa where all can prosper — no matter their skin color or heritage or religion, or social or economic standing. Let’s start now.

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The Iowa Policy Project is a nonpartisan public policy research and analysis organization in Iowa City.