February 3, 2012
Help for Working Families: Child Care Assistance
Help for Working Families: Child Care Assistance
To help working families, Iowa has a Child Care Assistance (CCA) initiative that is currently serving nearly 24,000 children. The goal is to help families with child care costs while working or attending school full-time to upgrade their skills and land a better paying job.
In a report to a legislative committee this week, the Department of Human Services (DHS) said ninety percent of all families using CCA are working. Families with an income up to 145% of the Federal Poverty Level ($32,410 for a family of four) are eligible for CCA. Parents must be working at least 28 hours per week or be full time students.
Of the children that receive CCA, 18% are infants or toddlers, 47% are preschool aged, and 35% are school aged. There are currently around 10,000 child care providers that accept families that qualify for CCA.
Currently, Iowa is ranked 44th in the nation on income eligibility for CCA. To help boost the middle class and encourage more Iowans to upgrade their skills, some are encouraging legislators to increase the eligibility for CCA to include more hard-working families.
There is more information about CCA on the DHS website and how to apply: www.dhs.iowa.gov/Consumers/Child_Care/CCAssistance/CCAforConsumers.html.
State Donates to USS Iowa Museum
Once the most powerful and largest battleship in the U.S. Navy, the U.S.S. Iowa is being transformed into a museum for future generations. Last year, the Iowa Legislature approved donating $3 million to help with the effort of the restoration of the USS Iowa. This year, to ensure accountability, the Iowa Legislature passed Senate File 2018, which specifies how the money can be spent and requests updates from the organization possessing the battleship.
The USS Iowa is expected to open at a museum in Los Angeles, California in July of this year. The USS Iowa has a history of being active for over 50 years and being part of World War II, the Korean War, and throughout the Cold War. The USS Iowa was decommissioned for the final time in 1990 and the Pacific Battleship Center was awarded the ship by the U.S. Navy to be transformed into an interactive museum.
Bill Nullifies Dove Hunting Lead Shot Ban Rule
On a 17-4 vote, the House Natural Resources Committee passed the bill to nullify the Iowa Natural Resources Commission rule that bans the use of lead shot for hunting doves.
Last year, the Legislature approved, and the Governor signed, legislation authorizing the Iowa Natural Resources Commission to establish a mourning dove hunting season in Iowa. Last summer, the commission set the season starting September 1st and lasting 70 days. As part of their rule, they also prohibited the use of lead shot.
However, a legislative committee temporarily stopped the lead shot ban for last year’s season. The full Legislature would need to adopt a bill to permanently stop the ban. House Joint Resolution 2001 is the bill that would permanently repeal the lead shot ban established by the commission.
If the resolution is adopted by both the House and Senate, hunters will be allowed to use lead shot for the upcoming September dove hunting season. If the resolution is not adopted, the lead shot ban would be in effect for the upcoming season.
House Joint Resolution 2001 will be debated by the full House on Thursday.
Stand Your Ground Bill Passes Committee
Despite strong opposition from law enforcement officials, the House Public Safety Committee again approved a bill commonly referred to as the ‘stand your ground’ because it expands the right to use deadly force beyond one’s home and place of employment to anywhere they are legally present. It even provides immunity from civil litigation if they kill an innocent bystander in the process.
House File 573 makes changes to current law that is commonly referred to as the “castle doctrine.” Iowa’s castle doctrine law states that a person has the right to use reasonable force if it would be necessary to prevent an injury or loss. A person has the right to use deadly force if it is reasonable to believe that the force is necessary to avoid injury or risk to one’s life or safety or the life or safety of another, or if it is reasonable to believe that the force is necessary to resist a like force or threat.
Proponents of the bill say it is needed so Iowans can protect themselves no matter where they are (location), and also so that a person does not have to defend themselves in a lawsuit. The bill takes away the ability for a judge or jury to determine if the person who used force was justified in their actions or if they should have retreated.
Law enforcement officials and county attorneys argue that this bill does not solve any problems, but would actually create more problems. They argue that good Samaritans are not being put through trials or being sued, under current law, when their actions clearly show that they were trying to stop a crime or assist another person who is being harmed.
They also say this language will create an excuse to use for violence in certain situations, such as bar fights and domestic fights. The person who used the force simply says they believed that their life, or someone else’s, was at risk so they had to use deadly force. Law enforcement point out that they are trained to de-escalate violent situations, not bring more violence into the situation.
House File 573 passed Public Safety Committee and may be debated by the full House.
National Guard Education Assistance Signed into Law
With 3,000 guard members returning from duty last year, legislators moved quickly with bipartisan support to prevent tuition hikes for National Guard members heading to college this spring.
Because of high demand, Adjutant General Timothy Orr informed members of the National Guard in December that awards for the spring semester tuition assistance would be cut to 50% of tuition costs, or $1,604, instead of the 90% students received in the first semester.
This week, the Governor signed Senate File 2007, which appropriates an additional $1.3 million to bring the amount of assistance back up to 90% of tuition costs. Called the National Guard Education Assistance Program, it is administered by the National Guard and the College Student Aid Program.
The State established the National Guard Education Assistance Program in 1999 as a way to bolster Iowa’s National Guard membership. The program provides grants to Iowa National Guard members who have not completed a baccalaureate degree to attend college. The grant is up to the cost of tuition at one of the state universities and may be used at a state university, community college, or an Iowa private college.
For more information on the National Guard Education Assistance Program visit:
It’s Not Too Late to Sign Up for Heating Assistance
Even though the temperatures this winter haven’t been as low as previous winters, heating assistance is still available through the low income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP). Persons eligible for the assistance must be below 150% of the poverty level. Information about the guidelines is available at www.dcaa.iowa.gov/bureau_EA/whos_eligible.html, or you can call the Iowa Utilities Board at 1-877-565-4450 to be connected with their local community action program.
The LIHEAP program is designed to assist residents with their heating bills, but not pay the full amount of their heating bills. Iowa law states that if a household is certified as eligible for LIHEAP, a utility cannot disconnect gas or electric service between November 1, 2011, and April 1, 2012.
Counties May Get Additional Relief with Mental Health Costs
Last year, the Legislature set aside $10 million to help counties provide mental health services and avoid placing citizens on waiting lists to receive services. There is currently $5 million of these funds remaining and the mental health risk pool board is seeking additional authority from the General Assembly to allocate these remaining funds.
Currently, there is legislation in both chambers to establish a process for the mental health risk pool board to allow additional allocations from the risk pool fund. The risk pool is a pot of money for counties to access if they think they will be short of funding for county administered mental health and disability services.
The bills allow for counties to access the risk pool in a three tiered criteria system. The risk pool board is allowed to accept or reject an application in whole and prorate distribution of funding as necessary to conform to the amount available.
The bills require the risk pool funds to be distributed within 15 working days of the board’s funding decision. The risk pool board is required to report to the Governor and the General Assembly on or before December 31, 2012, regarding funds distributed from the risk pool.