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    November 7, 2019

    Veterans Day - Honoring Iowa Veterans
    Applications for Winter Home Heating Assistance Begin Nov. 1st
    Iowans Overwhelmingly Vote to Keep Union Representation
    Community Development Block Grants Available
    Iowa Tied for #1 in ACT Scores
    Industrial Hemp Program Moves Forward
    Fall Leaves Can Improve Soil Health


    Veterans Day - Honoring Iowa Veterans

    Veterans Day is Monday, November, 11 and there are several ceremonies being held across the state to honor those who have served our country. First recognized in 1919, the date commemorates the end of fighting in World War I when an armistice took effect between the Allied nations and Germany at 11 am on November 11, 1918.

    As part of the numerous events honoring veterans across Iowa, there will be an Iowa Veterans Day Observance at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery in Adel beginning at 8:00 am. There will also be a ceremony at Iowa State University in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union to honor students who have served our country.

    Last session, the Legislature passed various bills to help Iowa’s veterans, including expanding the number of families who are eligible to receive funds from the Injured Veterans Grants Program. This program provides funds to family members who have a loved one who was injured and allows them travel to be with their soldier. The Legislature also voted to eliminate barriers that military spouses may face when trying to obtain an occupational license or have issues getting their work license expedited.

    A full list of Veterans Day events statewide is available at: https://va.iowa.gov/.


    Applications for Winter Home Heating Assistance Begin Nov. 1st

    Beginning November 1st, Iowans may start filing applications for limited financial heating assistance through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

    LIHEAP’s annual application period runs from November 1st through April 30th, and is based on household size and income. The LIHEAP program is designed to help low-income families meet the partial cost of home heating through a one-time payment made directly to the utility or heating fuel vendor.

    Iowa law also protects qualified applicants who are head of a household under LIHEAP from being disconnected from natural gas or electric service during the annual winter moratorium (November 1st through April 30th). Iowans should know, even if they do not ultimately qualify for LIHEAP, utility companies cannot disconnect natural gas or heating while a LIHEAP application is pending.

    The Iowa Utilities Board urges all LIHEAP-certified customers and applicants to continue paying towards their energy bills through the winter to avoid accumulating high debt or face potential utility service disconnection in the spring. For additional information on eligibility requirements, please see: https://iub.iowa.gov/consumers/low-income-home-energy-assistance-program-liheap.

    Iowans interested in applying for LIHEAP should contact their local county office regarding application for services. The link to every local office’s contact information can be found here: https://humanrights.iowa.gov/dcaa/where-apply.


    Iowans Overwhelmingly Vote to Keep Union Representation

    Teachers, nurses, law enforcement officials, and snowplow drivers were among the 95% of Iowa public employee unions who voted to recertify their local union last month.

    In a system where those who do not participate are counted as “no” votes, this year 286 of 297 public employee units voted to recertify. The units represent workers in school districts, hospitals, law enforcement, cities, counties, area education agencies, and community colleges across the state.

    After Republican lawmakers passed legislation in 2017 to take away the voice of Iowans in their own workplace and severely restrict public employee unions, this was the third time bargaining units overwhelmingly voted yes to recertification under new stringent regulations. Under the new regulations, the public employee union must hold a recertification election every year or two before bargaining a new contract.


    Community Development Block Grants Available

    This week, applications are now being accepted for the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) program by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). CDBG are for cities and counties to fund projects for public use, such as daycares, community centers, senior centers, and stormwater projects. Projects must be open to the community and at least 51% of the residents served must be low-to-moderate income.

    IEDA has $1.6 million available for the grants and range from $1,000 per capita for small towns to $500,000 for larger towns and cities. The application period runs from now through January 17, 2020. For more information about CDBG and how to apply, visit https://iowagrants.gov.


    Iowa Tied for #1 in ACT Scores

    Recently released ACT test score show that Iowa is tied for the top spot with South Dakota, with at least 60% participating.

    The Iowa and South Dakota composite scores were 21.6 out of a possible 36. The national average was 20.7. Iowa’s score was down slightly from 2018’s composite of 21.8. Of the students in the 2019 graduating class, 66% took the test in Iowa according to the national assessment organization. Although, Iowa does not require students to take the ACT, there are 17 states that require all students participate.

    ACT also released its college readiness report, which showed overall in Iowa, 29% of students who took the test met the readiness benchmarks which includes the subjects of English, Reading, Math and Science. This has declined when compared to 2015 when 33% of students were considered college ready.


    Industrial Hemp Program Moves Forward

    Iowa farmers could be growing hemp as soon as next year after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its industrial hemp rules last month. The rules will implement a national hemp growing program that was authorized in the Federal 2018 Farm Bill. As a result of that change, the Iowa Legislature approved the growing of industrial hemp during the 2019 session.

    With the USDA rules now issued, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) will begin moving forward on their industrial hemp program by developing rules to implement the program that must include certain requirements, such as keeping track of land, testing methods, and disposal of plants or products that exceed the allowed THC concentration.

    Once approved, IDALS will have primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp. IDALS will have oversight responsibility over industrial hemp and will establish and administer the hemp license applications.

    It is expected that licensing for hemp production will begin in early 2020.


    Fall Leaves Can Improve Soil Health

    This fall, Iowans are reminded that instead of burning or bagging leaves, they can be used to improve soil health according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). There are easy ways to convert the nutrients in those leaves into something that can benefit you and your neighbors.

    Composting leaves can turn waste into nutrients for your garden. Dead and dry leaves can be combined with green materials like food scraps or grass clippings to make compost for your own use. The DNR’s website has tips for ways to compost at https://www.iowadnr.gov/About-DNR/DNR-News-Releases/ArticleID/383.

    Leaves can also be chopped up and left in place and will act as a natural fertilizer for lawns and add organic matter to enrich the soil. A mulching mower can be used to mix and shred the leaves and grass into the yard, or a regular mower can be used to go over an area until the leaves are chopped up.

    Burning leaves may smell good, but leaf smoke can be especially harmful to children, the elderly, and those with respiratory problems. The smoke contains soot, toxic chemicals, and carbon monoxide. Instead Iowans are encouraged to turn your leaves can be turned into beneficial nutrients that can improve the soil health of your own lawn while protecting your neighbor’s lungs from harmful pollutants.