Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday signed three bills into law that she said will help address the state’s workforce woes during Iowa Association of Business and Industry’s annual conference in Dubuque.

Reynolds told a crowd of hundreds of business professionals and government officials that the new laws — passed by the Iowa Legislature this year — will remove what she sees as barriers to Iowans reentering the workforce. She called them examples of “bold policy” that have made room for “growth and prosperity” during her time in office.

“If you put all this together, I think it’s clear there’s never been a better time to believe in Iowa and the businesses that create our economy,” she said. “Our goal is to complement and empower the essential work you do every day.”

One law signed by Reynolds cuts the amount of time people can collect unemployment benefits after losing a job from more than six months down to four months and prohibits them from turning down a job offer while collecting unemployment.

“We’re working with (unemployed people), but it’s definitely something that will move us in the right direction,” Reynolds said.

To supplement the cut, Iowa Workforce Development has started offering one-on-one career counseling for people seeking to enter the workforce.

“We want to reach individuals who want to either upscale or have stepped out for a while to encourage them to get back into the workforce,” Reynolds told the Telegraph Herald after her remarks at the Taking Care of Business Conference.

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend attended the event and said her staff call people the week they file for unemployment to set up appointments for a resume review and interview training and to connect them with employers matching their qualifications.

“The whole point is to reduce the amount of time you’re between jobs,” she said.

During a campaign stop in Dubuque earlier this week, Democratic challenger for governor Deidre DeJear said cutting unemployment will not bring people back to the workforce and will only harm them further. She said the real answer to Iowa’s workforce crisis is in higher wages.

“Every state around the state of Iowa seems to be paying higher wages than Iowa,” she said, promoting a minimum wage increase as one step. “I don’t want our river towns to be bedroom communities where people work on the other side of the river and live over here.”

Another law Reynolds signed Thursday increases the number of children who can be cared for by a child care center worker to seven children 2 years old and younger and 10 children 3 or 4 years old. It also lowers the minimum age at which child care workers can care for children without adult supervision to 16.

After her speech, Reynolds touted these changes as options and not requirements for providers.

“If they think that will allow them to bring additional children into their care, they can do that,” she said.

Deb McConnell, a director for Young-uns Preschool and Child Care Center in Dubuque, was skeptical of both law changes.

“I understand where the governor is coming from with these,” she said in a phone interview after Reynolds signed the bill into law. “I understand there is a great need for spaces, but at what cost? When we’re trying to enhance programs and the quality of programs, I think this diminishes that. It’s going to cause some more burnout for staff. And I don’t necessarily think that 16-year-olds are mature enough and have the background, education, experience to work with seven 2-year-olds, or even six (2-year-olds) for that matter.”

Other area child care providers spoke favorably of bills with these changes when they were being considered during the legislative session, noting the flexibility they could offer providers.

The third law Reynolds signed expands work-based learning programs for high school students, creates health care workforce recruitment programs and restricts city and county government inspections of manufactured homes.

Iowa Association of Business and Industry Chairman Jack Hasken, who is also president and CEO of Jackson Manufacturing Inc. in Maquoketa, Iowa, thanked Reynolds for her service while introducing her, touting her invitation from Republican U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to deliver her party’s response to Democratic President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address this year.

“Her remarks were spot-on for what was happening in Iowa and across the United States,” he said.

The Iowa Association of Business and Industry is officially a nonpartisan organization. In recent elections, the group’s political action committee — Iowa Industry PAC — has made nearly all of its donations to Republican campaigns.

The PAC’s board met Thursday with Reynolds before her address to the full conference, association President Mike Ralston said when he introduced Reynolds. The PAC did not donate to Reynolds’ campaign, though, in 2018 and has not so far for the 2022 election cycle.

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(1) comment

paperluv

Taking away your unemployment insurance that you pay for by working, meaning insurance premiums are paid by you through your employer, are being stolen. Unemployment is not welfare,you have earned it by working, and to have her steal your hard earned insurance is just plain wrong. It is theft using "talking points" and smiles and is ludicrous. It will lower wages and benefits for all workers. Unreal.

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