The COVID-19 (coronavirus) national health emergency is requiring national sacrifice, the scale of which has not been seen in some time. Governors in each state are tasked with filling dual roles: providing information to their citizens and coordinating resources and relief. Iowa’s Gov. Kim Reynolds is demonstrating remarkable leadership in this crisis.
Even in times of calm, one of the most important leadership qualities is communication. The COVID-19 crisis has caused much uncertainty and fear. This is not just out of health concerns, but economic concerns, as well. For several weeks now, Reynolds has communicated with Iowans through daily news conferences, providing updates on the health of our state’s citizens, what steps must be taken to slow the spread of the virus, and what our government is doing to help. Although this information is sometimes alarming, it is necessary to keep the public informed.
Through several different means, Reynolds is ensuring that the constantly-changing priorities of state government are being met. The Iowa Legislature voted on a bipartisan basis to ensure government funding would remain in place into the fall, and they empowered the governor with discretion over resources to combat COVID-19. The governor, through multiple orders and declarations has also suspended regulations to ensure red tape does not hinder health care, essential supply efforts, or employment.
Since taking office, Reynolds has spurred on Iowa’s economy. Through prudent fiscal policies, not only has Reynolds overseen a growing economy, but the state budget was prepared for an emergency. As the COVID-19 emergency began Iowa had $800 million in budget reserves and a surplus of $200 million. With economic uncertainty likely to linger, Iowa’s budget is positioned much better than some of our neighbors to dampen the financial impact of this pandemic. Unfortunately, there is no way to shield every Iowa family or business from financial harm.
Reynolds has been criticized by some for not following other states who have issued shelter-in-place orders. This criticism has increased especially after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, argued that all states should issue a shelter-in-place order. In response, Reynolds reminded Iowans that since the beginning, Iowa has been following appropriate federal guidelines, even if she has yet to use the term “shelter-in-place.” In fact, after a recent phone conversation with Dr. Fauci and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, Reynolds reported that Dr. Fauci agreed that both states were “on the same page” as the federal guidelines.
Although COVID-19 is a national crisis, each state is different. While attempting to strike the appropriate balance between safety and disastrous economic impact. Reynolds has demonstrated she understands what Iowans need even as she has been implementing precautions for nearly a month. As an example, she has acknowledged that close to 80 percent of Iowans work in occupations that are considered essential and that must be taken into consideration.
Gov. Reynolds is leading Iowa through the COVID-19 emergency with prudence and determination to protect all Iowans both now and in the aftermath of this crisis.
John Hendrickson is policy director for Tax Education Foundation of Iowa.