September 16, 2020 - 1:15 pm - Posted in News

Primghar, Iowa — People are seeing food insecurity worsen statewide. Michelle Book, the CEO of Foodbank Of Iowa says that she is losing hope as the economic situation worsens as well as the food situation.

However, how are things on a local scale? Brenda Collier, Upper Des Moines Opportunity’s Outreach Specialist, took some time to explain the  local situation.

(as said)“Our community has really stepped up and assisting with making sure that our food pantry is stocked, and ready for the needs of the community. So, I don’t see a big change because we have a great community.”

Collier says that she has seen the need for food rise, because she has seen more people come to the pantry.

(as said)“As far as more people, we have had an increase in people coming to the food pantry, and the need has risen, but other than that, I think it’s steady.”

Upper Des Moines Opportunity is one of 18 Community Action Agencies in the State of Iowa and has been serving our communities since 1965.

September 16, 2020 - 11:00 am - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — The latest Iowa Association of Business and Industry survey shows a positive outlook for the fourth quarter while concerns about the pandemic still linger.

ABI president, Mike Ralston, says he was surprised by the continued optimism.

(as said)“Most ABI members expect to have their sales expand or at the very worst stay the same in the fourth quarter. That’s about 90 percent answer that way, almost 50 percent of them expect to see increased sales, so that’s pretty good news,” Ralston says.

He says 53 percent expect the number of employees in their business to stay the same and 37 percent expect that number to grow. Ralston says the confidence comes with the experience they’ve gained in already dealing with the pandemic.

(as said)“If we dig deeper into some of these results, people are saying they’ve identified new supply chains, new partners, that’s led to increased markets and they’ve been able to adapt and grow,” according to Ralston. “They didn’t necessarily think that would be the case, but that’s exactly what has happened.”

He says there have been some new issues that come up regarding concern for employees.

(as said) Ralston says, “The Folks that responded to our survey, mention specifically, that they are concerned about and thinking about employee well being, and that came in two forms. The first one, of course, their physical health with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ralston goes on to say the second concern was the stress as employees tried to take care of their families.

(as said)“Keeping their family healthy. What about their kids in school, how does that work? Making sure that they can stay in this job. Childcare issues are something that we continue to see,” Ralston explains.

He says the closing of schools and childcare because of the pandemic puts a lot of pressure on workers.

(as said)Ralston says, “Parents want to make sure their kids are safe and that they are learning, especially if it’s a single-parent home, they really have to decide do I go to work today or do I stay home with my kids. So, it’s a real issue.”

He says finding employees to fill jobs continues to be an issue. Another thing Ralston says surprised him in the survey is the lack of mention of the November elections as an issue.

(as said)“Not a single person raised the election as an issue,” Ralston says. “I think that if you talk to most Iowa business people, they’re concerned with running their business, they’re concerned with keeping production going and getting the product to the customer. So, while they are interested in the election, it’s not their day-to-day focus.”

ABI has 15-hundred member companies in all 99 counties and those companies have more than 330-thousand employees.

Statewide Iowa — A new poll conducted for AARP Iowa shows 57 percent of likely Iowa voters over the age of 50 are planning to cast their ballots before Election Day.

AARP state director Brad Anderson says that’s a big swing from 2016 when 49% of voters over the age of 50 voted absentee.

(as said) “Eight points in Iowa in a state that is purple and where it is going to be close is a very big deal,” Anderson says, “and in addition to that we are going to have a lot of voters who are voting by mail for the first time and so we want to make sure they have the information they need to cast that ballot.”

AARP is sending an absentee ballot request form to the 360,000 Iowans who are AARP members.

(as said) “We want to make sure that Iowans have the ability to vote safely and we want them to do that in record numbers, similar to what they did in the primary,” Anderson says.

There was record turn-out in Iowa’s June 2nd Primary and 80% of voters chose to vote early with an absentee ballot. Anderson says the group’s poll also gauged which issues are most important to older voters.

(as said) “We want to make sure that politicians know that older voters are going to vote this election cycle, they’re likely going to do so in record numbers which means they need to address issues important to older voters,” Anderson says.

Eighty-two percent of the “50-plus” Iowa voters surveyed said Social Security was a critical issue for them and 84 percent ranked jobs and the economy as “extremely” or “very important” as they make their voting decisions.

(as said) “COVID-19 is a very important issue, no doubt. Social Justice is a very important issue, no doubt. We want politicians to pay attention to those issues, but we also want to remind them that the core issues like Social Security and Medicare and lowering the costs of prescription drugs are still a very big deal to 50-plus voters.”

According to AARP, 55% of the Iowans who voted in the 2016 presidential election were “50 plus” and it was even higher in 2018 as 60% of Iowa voters were above the age of 50.

September 15, 2020 - 4:20 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — A total of twenty-seven new COVID-19 cases were reported on Tuesday in the four northwestern-most Iowa counties, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Once again, most of them in Sioux County. And Sioux County is reporting the highest percentage of tests coming back positive.

Sioux County reports a total of 1125 cases, after a rise of fifteen cases. O’Brien County is at 266, which is up four. Lyon County was up six cases at 199, and Osceola County was up two at 110.

The 14-day rolling average shows that for the state of Iowa, Sioux County has the highest percentage of tests coming back positive, at 24.2 percent. Lyon County was second with 17.4 percent. Plymouth County was third with 16.0 percent. O’Brien County was fourth with 15.5 percent of ordered tests coming back positive, and Osceola County was down the list a little at 15th place with a rate of 12 percent.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has 38, Sioux County has 403, O’Brien County has 101, and Osceola has 19. But only a very small number of those cases are hospitalized. The latest statistics available at this time are for Monday. And at that point, six people were hospitalized in Sioux County, three in O’Brien, one in Lyon County, and none in Osceola County.

Fourteen northwest Iowans have died in connection with COVID-19 since the pandemic started. Eight in O’Brien County and three each in Lyon and Sioux Counties.

Recovery rate:
Out of the 199 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 158 have recovered, for a rate of about 79%.
Out of the 1125 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 719 have recovered, for a rate of about 64%.
Out of the 266 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 157 have recovered, for a rate of about 59%.
Out of the 110 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 91 have recovered, for a rate of about 83%.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report:

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 936, up 9
Cherokee 163, up 3
Buena Vista 1900, up 1
Clay 258, down 4
Dickinson 452, unchanged

These numbers reflect the period of noon Monday through noon Tuesday.

Alton, Iowa — A mural commemorating the arrival of Luxembourg immigrants in Sioux County in 1870 is complete, and a dedication ceremony has been scheduled.

The completed Lux Fest mural, located at 1002 Third Avenue in Alton, will be dedicated on Sunday, September 27th, at 11:00 a.m. Mural artist Amber Hansen will explain the symbolism within the mural and will dedicate it.

Hot dogs, chips, and water will be available for a free-will offering.

Judy Stokesberry with the Luxembourg Heritage Society of Northwest Iowa is one of the people helping with Lux Fest and the mural. She tells us how this all started.

(as said:) “It began as a part of our Lux Fest, which is a celebration of the arrival of the first Luxembourgers in northwest Iowa. And they arrived around Alton in 1870. And so this year is the hundred and fiftieth anniversary. And we started out by saying, ‘oh we should have a parade,’ and then, ‘well, maybe we should have a genealogical display’ and it built from there. One of our members has a daughter who is a professor at the University of South Dakota and Vermillion and she’s a painting professor and one of her specialties is doing community art and doing community murals. She’s also a dual citizen of Luxembourg. And so it just all kind of started to balloon from there. She designed a mural for us that will commemorate some of the special things that happened as Luxembourgers moved into the area. And as other people moved into the area and then kind of history of the community.”

Stokesberry tells us what the mural looks like.

(as said:) “It has a background of the state of Iowa because the settlers that we’re commemorating started in St. Donatus, Iowa …which is over right south of Dubuque… and came across Iowa in ox-drawn wagons. And like I said, settled around Alton. On the right-hand side, there are going to be a lot of symbols of the country of Luxembourg, which is where most of the settlers originated before they came to St. Donatus. And on the left-hand side are some corresponding symbols of Iowa. For example, the flower of Luxembourg is the rose and the flower of Iowa is the prairie rose. State birds are similar, you know, there are a lot of comparisons between that. And then to incorporate other things, she has some big, big butterflies and on the wings of the butterflies will be sketches of things that happened in Alton and in northwest Iowa.. like people farming… anything that people think is representative of their life and our lives now in this area.”

The mural is painted on the wall of the L & M Enterprises building at 1002 Third Avenue in Alton.

Photo caption: Reed Plathe primes the Lux mural wall in Alton

September 15, 2020 - 12:25 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Dortdt University and Northwestern College are being recognized by U.S. News & World Report for being rated as some of the best colleges in the Midwest.

Dordt is ranked as one of the best colleges in the state, and is tied for the fourth-best regional Midwest college. Northwestern is also being recognized as a top college in the state and is ranked sixth-best regional Midwest college.

Dordt is also widely recognized as being one of the best cost-effective colleges in the state, with its low tuition and the outstanding quality of the academic programs it offers.

“Every day, Dordt faculty seek to provide our students with an excellent Christ-centered education,” says Dr. Erik Hoekstra, president of Dordt University. “To be named one of the top Midwest universities by U.S. News and World Report is an honor, but the greatest honor is that we get to serve the Lord by educating and equipping our students toward Christ-centered renewal and to serve as effective citizens of Christ’s kingdom.”

Northwestern and Dordt are also ranked among the top in the Social Mobility list. Schools named to the “Top Performers in Social Mobility” list are more successful than others at advancing social mobility by enrolling and graduating large proportions of disadvantaged students who’ve been awarded Pell Grants.

“We are always pleased when Northwestern’s standout education is affirmed by rankings and our peer institutions,” says Greg Christy, Northwestern College’s president. “Our latest U.S. News ranking joins strong rankings from organizations like Money magazine and College Consensus. These ranking, as well as top scores by our students on actuarial, CPA, MCAT, and nursing exam, add external validation to the praises we consistently hear from alumni and students about the strength of the Northwestern experience. They affirm the excellence of our faculty as they prepare students to lead lives of significance.”

For a full look at the ranking of these schools, click here.

September 14, 2020 - 4:31 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — The elevated coronavirus numbers continue. A total of fifty-eight new COVID-19 cases were reported on Monday in the four northwestern-most Iowa counties, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Once again, most of them in Sioux County, but other counties are reporting large rises in case numbers as well.

Sioux County reports a total of 1110 cases, after a rise of thirty-four cases. O’Brien County is at 262, which is up nine. Lyon County was up eleven cases at 193, and Osceola County was up four at 108.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has 31, Sioux County has 372, O’Brien County has 97, and Osceola has 14.

Fourteen northwest Iowans have died in connection with COVID-19 since the pandemic started. Eight in O’Brien County and three each in Lyon and Sioux Counties.

Recovery rate:
Out of the 193 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 155 have recovered, for a rate of about 80%.
Out of the 1110 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 702 have recovered, for a rate of about 63%.
Out of the 262 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 150 have recovered, for a rate of about 57%.
Out of the 108 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 90 have recovered, for a rate of about 83%.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report:

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 927, up 2
Cherokee 160, up 1
Buena Vista 1899, up 1
Clay 262, up 8
Dickinson 452, unchanged

These numbers reflect the period of noon Sunday through noon Monday.

Statewide Iowa – The state program that allows parents and students to save for college is expanding the ways that money can be used. State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald says one change now allows College Savings Iowa funds to be used for qualified apprenticeship programs.

(As above) “You can use that money to pay for the supplies and the tuition and stuff you need to do an apprenticeship program. We think it makes that program a whole lot better,” Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald says the change involving apprenticeship programs acknowledges the need for people to fill the jobs.

(As above) “Electricians and carpenters and bricklayers — all those valuable professions that we need that are great jobs. But these apprenticeships sometimes cost some money for tuition and they may have to buy special tools and things like that. Now, that’s covered by College Savings Iowa,” Fitzgerald says.

The money put into the program had previously been restricted to qualified expenses for a student in college. Another change allows the money to pay off past college expenses.

(As above) “Families can use 10-thousand dollars of money — if they don’t use it to go through college….they can use it to pay off college debt,” according to Fitzgerald. “Because we know college debt is a big problem out there. So they can use up to 10-thousand dollars to pay off one child’s college debt.” 

The money put into College Savings Iowa can grow and provides a tax break when it is used.

(As above) “Each individual mom and dad, you can deduct up to three-thousand-439 dollars ($3,439) of the money you put into one child’s College Savings Iowa account. And on top of that, it will grow tax-free from the federal government and the state government,” Fitzgerald says. 

To learn more about College Savings Iowa, call (888) 672-9116 or visit CollegeSavingsIowa.com

 

September 14, 2020 - 3:08 pm - Posted in News

Orange City, Iowa — A range was destroyed in a fire on Sunday, September 13, 2020, in Orange City.

According to Orange City Fire Chief Denny Vander Wel, about 7:45 p.m., the Orange City Fire Department was called to the report of an oven fire at 403 Fourth Street Northeast in Orange City.

The chief says that according to the occupant they had put a frozen pizza in the oven and somehow activated self-clean mode. He says the oven got way too hot and the pizza started on fire inside the oven. When the self-clean mode is activated, the door locks, and Vander Wel says they couldn’t get at the fire. He says when firefighters arrived, they took the range outside and pryed the door open to put out the fire.

Vander Wel says no injuries were reported, and the damage was limited to the range. He says there wasn’t even any smoke damage in the home.

He says the firefighters who responded were on the scene for 15 to 20 minutes.

September 14, 2020 - 2:26 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa –Many oil refinery waivers are being rejected by the EPA, some dating back as far as 2011.

Federal law lets smaller oil refineries apply for an exemption from the requirement that ethanol is blended into gasoline. Early this year, a federal court ruled the EPA could only extend previously granted waivers and could not grant new ones.

This summer, the EPA has been considering 52 waiver requests for previous years that would have let oil refineries qualify for extensions. All 52 have been rejected.

In a written statement, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the decision “follows President Trump’s promise to promote domestic biofuel production and support our nation’s farmers.”

Monte Shaw of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association said today’s action by the EPA “short circuits a blatant attempt by some oil refiners to skirt federal ethanol requirements,”. The result will be the number of oil refineries eligible to receive an ethanol blending waiver has been “reduced to single digits,” according to Shaw.

Governor Kim Reynolds said this is a significant step forward for the state’s renewable fuel industry. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst said today’s announcement provides certainty to farmers who’ve been yanked around by the EPA.

On Saturday, Trump announced the EPA would not stand in the way of states that decide to let gas stations dispense E15 from pumps that now dispense E10.