Good afternoon, I think we’ll go ahead and get started. And I want to thank you for being here or tuning in remotely. Before I begin the press conference this afternoon, I’d like to acknowledge that the state of Iowa and the journalists who cover it, lost a real icon yesterday with the passing of Dean Borg. He was a long-term host of Iowa Press on Iowa PBS and for decades he brought Iowa government and politics into our living rooms. He brought the curiosity and fairness of an inquiring journalist and an unwavering pride in both of his state and his Forest City roots, to help keep Iowans informed about their government and its leaders. He will be missed and Kevin and I extend our heartfelt condolences to his family.
So, go ahead and start with an update on the number of cases of COVID-19 that we released earlier this morning. Today there are 15 new positive cases. The State Hygienic Lab had eight positive cases and 173 negative. That brings our total positive cases in the state of Iowa to 105, it brings our total negative cases in the state of Iowa to 2,043. The total number of counties now are at 26 and we have seven individuals hospitalized as of Sunday at 6 p.m. As expected, the number of positive cases is increasing in large part due to the expanded testing capability, as the volume of testing continues to expand, we will likely see that number grow for a while. I want to reiterate that under the public health emergency declarations that I signed last week, we continue to work to slow the spread and mitigate the virus’s effect of Iowans, provide regulatory relief for those impacted, and remove legal barriers to prevent us from responding to this disaster. You can find information on the health declarations at coronavirus.iowa.gov. We also continue to monitor and discuss additional steps that can be taken to support our efforts in these unprecedented times.
All the necessary actions that we’ve taken at the state level have come with consequences to Iowans, including our small businesses. Iowa’s small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and the engine behind our economy and that’s why it is critically important that we take the steps to help and support our small businesses during these challenging times. It’s clear from social media and news reports that Iowans are stepping up to try and support restaurants, bars and all of our small businesses and I want to thank every Iowan who has taken action with their own buying decisions to buy local and support Iowa’s small business owners and workers. On Saturday, we announced that the United States Small Business Administration had issued a disaster declaration for the entire state of Iowa. The action allows Iowa small businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic to apply for low-interest support loans. The SBA through the economic injury disaster loan program can provide up to two million dollars in loans at a very low interest for the term of up to 30 years. I want to thank the Trump Administration and SBA. They were accessible, responsive, and acted fast, which is good news for Iowa small businesses.
So, today I’m also announcing new state-based disaster assistance for small businesses. This is a three-pronged plan developed by our teams at the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Iowa Department of Revenue, and Iowa Workforce Development, whose directors are with me today. We’re making funding available for small grants to employers with two to 25 employees and these grants will range from 5,000 to 25,000. In addition, the Iowa Department of Revenue will automatically extend the sales and withholding tax deadline for any business that gets a grant and will consider an extension for any business that applies for a grant. In addition, Iowa Workforce Development will allow businesses with fewer than 50 employees to delay their unemployment tax payments for the first quarter until July 31st. These three actions will provide some much-needed relief for struggling small businesses as well as some help with cash flow. I fully understand that this doesn’t make up for having your businesses closed for a period of time or your customers staying home, but it is our hope that we can help businesses weather the storm and as governor, I want you to know that I’m committed to helping them do just that.
Again, I want to thank the three directors with me today for their outstanding work and coming up with solutions to help Iowa small businesses in these times of uncertainty. And now it is my pleasure to introduce director Debi Durham of the Iowa Economic Development Authority to give us a few more details on the grant program. Debi?
[Debi Durham speaks]
Thanks, Debi for that. We’re also joined by director Paulson and Director Townsend from Department of Revenue and Workforce Development and so they’ll be available also to answer questions at the end of this. But first, I want to that this chance to send an important message directly to Iowans. Again, this is the time that we need every Iowan to do their part to help mitigate and slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep essential services up and running. If you do not need to leave your house to help your family or other Iowans respond to this disaster, stay home. If your job allows you to work from home, do so. If you can keep your children home with you instead of taking them to a daycare, do so. If you are an employer with a workforce able to work remotely, help them work remotely. Limit your time away from home to trips for essentials like groceries, medications, and necessary supplies. Send just one family member out for errands. If you work in essential services like health care, emergency services, food production, and supply manufacturing or transportation, you are on the frontlines of our response efforts. Thank you for your sacrifice and stay safe by practicing social distancing and careful hygiene and again, if you are sick, please stay home. Now is a critical time for our state and I am counting on every Iowan to be responsible for their own health and the health of others by doing the right thing now. So stat at home and help us save a life. We’re all in this together. So, with that we’ll go ahead and open it up for questions.
Reynolds, K.K. [DMRegister]. (2020, March 23). Gov. Kim Reynolds updates Iowans on the COVID-19 outbreak in Iowa (3.23.20) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO6quGRY3IE]. Retrieved on April 24, 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/user/DMRegister.