116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Gazette reporters in recent days have painted a grim picture of the economic struggles being faced in Cedar Rapids and Linn County and the organizations scrambling to help.
The Gazette’s Elijah Decious reported that the number of people living outdoors has quadrupled since 2017 and has tripled since July 2019 to more than 100 according to annual counts of homeless people. The number of people who are at risk of losing housing being served by Waypoint’s housing services program has increased from 3,000 in Fiscal Year 2019 to 13,000 clients this year.
The Gazette’s Emily Andersen reported that local food pantries are finding it more difficult to meet the rising demand for food help since extra pandemic-related federal nutrition benefits ended in Iowa. HACAP, which distributes food to many area pantries is facing a decline in food available from the USDA along with a decrease in donations and an increase in food prices.
The Gazette’s Gage Miskimen reported that agencies helping Iowans receive utility assistance are bracing for high demand as American households face the highest heating costs in 25 years. A tight winter fuel market has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.
In a recent editorial, we called for people to volunteer their time and donate dollars to organizations dealing with myriad needs for housing, food assistance and other necessities. But this is not an isolated situation facing only Cedar Rapids or Iowa’s metro areas. These are problems affecting rural and urban Iowans alike.
For example, according statistics compiled by the state on how many students are eligible for free and reduced price school lunches shows many rural schools with eligibility counts above 50 percent. At Schuler Elementary School in Atlantic, 59 percent of students are eligible. Lakeview Elementary in Centerville is at 58 percent. West Sioux Middle School in Hawarden is at more than 59 percent.
Certainly, coordinated local efforts are needed to address these issues. But this is also a statewide problem. Republicans spent much of the recent midterm campaign criticizing inflation and other economic woes they blamed on President Joe Biden. But now, as the Reynolds administration crafts its budget priorities and GOP lawmakers prepare to take over even larger legislative majorities, they have a chance to do something for struggling Iowans, most of whom are working.
Maybe, instead of another round of tax cuts benefitting the wealthy, the state could make new investments in affordable housing, child care, food assistance and other priorities. Perhaps the minimum wage could be raised after 15 years. The Legislature could tackle the hundreds of millions of dollars pocketed by unscrupulous businesses through wage theft. The list is long.
That would let Iowans know that all of the campaign talk about hard working Iowans facing economic difficulties wasn’t just talk. It’s should be a call to action, and state leaders must heed it.
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