Democrats criticize Iowa’s GOP governor for pace of awarding rent relief

The Iowa Capitol Building [Carol M. Highsmith photo]

By O. Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa
The top Democrat in the Iowa Senate is blasting Republican Governor Kim Reynolds for how the state has managed federal funds to help low-income Iowans pay overdue rent and utility bills during the pandemic.

A Des Moines Register analysis found the state has awarded about 2% of the $195 million in rent relief it received from the last round of pandemic aid approved during the Trump Administration. Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls of Coralville said that’s unacceptable.

“This is another example of the governor saying one thing and doing another,” Wahls said. “She has said that affordable housing is a priority…and obviously they’re slow-walking getting these dollars out the door.”

The State of Iowa is eligible for another $120 million worth of rental assistance. A spokesperson for the state agency that’s managing the program said a final decision has not been made yet on whether the state will apply for those funds. Iowa Congressman Cindy Axne, a Democrat from West Des Moines, said the state should be using all of that money.

“I talk to people all the time who can’t afford the roof over their heads. I’ve talked to landlords who are having a difficult time,” Axne said. “Let’s put some rental assistance into those hands so those landlords who have the affordable housing can keep the affordable housing in our communities.”

A federal moratorium on evictions for renters who’ve lost work due to the pandemic is set to end July 31. State officials have thus far awarded about $4 million in rent and utility assistance out of the initial $195 million allotment.