A letter from the Iowa Department of Public Health confirms the state of Iowa returned $95 million in pandemic aid for schools to the federal government.The funds, which were intended to aid surveillance testing in Iowa schools, came as part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan passed in March.Gov. Kim Reynolds defended the decision Thursday during a town hall on Fox News.”I think that (Biden) thinks that COVID-19 just started,” Reynolds said during the Fox News town hall. “I just returned $95 million because they sent an additional $95 million to the state of Iowa to get our kids back in the classroom (and) doing surveillance testing, and I said, ‘We’ve been in the classroom since August. Here’s your $95 million back.’”While most schools reopened in August, districts including Des Moines Public Schools delayed returning students to classrooms until October.Iowa Department of Public Health sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last Friday confirming that the funds were sent back.The department said Iowa has “ample funding and testing capacity for Iowa school districts.”The IDPH letter details how much federal money Iowa schools have yet to use for coronavirus testing.The first Elementary and Secondary Emergency School Relief Fund, or ESSER Fund, passed in 2020 under the first federal coronavirus relief bill.According to the IDPH, Iowa’s ESSER fund has $6.5 million leftover.Combined with second and third ESSER Funds passed in December and March, the IDPH reports $1.1 billion available for COVID-19 testing through the Iowa Department of Education.Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver said the school aid came with “strings attached” and the state already covered the funds’ intended purpose. “With the federal debt out of control, and it has been out of control for many years, if we’re not going to use it in the right ways we shouldn’t be spending it,” Whitver said.Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls disagreed, stating Iowa needs all the help it can muster to get through the pandemic. “Returning federal relief money is like drilling holes in a sinking boat,” Wahls said. “It makes no sense when we know that testing, whether it’s in a school or workplace, is an important part of ensuring that individual cases don’t become outbreaks,” Wahls said.State Auditor Rob Sand said in a statement that Reynolds’ decision to return the pandemic aid “makes no sense.”Sand issued a statement that said, in part, “That money could have created hundreds of strong-paying jobs to administer and assist in testing at schools, sporting events, graduations, and in contact tracing. Iowans would have then spent much of the money from those paychecks in businesses and communities still struggling to recover from the pandemic.”He went on to say turning down the pandemic aid puts students, teachers and school staff at risk of contracting COVID-19.State health officials said they would accept pandemic aid if it could be used for other purposes, including vaccine distribution. Reynolds has advocated for returning and keeping Iowa children in classrooms since the pandemic began.She signed a measure into law in early 2021 requiring schools to offer full-time, in-person instruction.

DES MOINES, Iowa — A letter from the Iowa Department of Public Health confirms the state of Iowa returned $95 million in pandemic aid for schools to the federal government.The funds, which were intended to aid surveillance testing in Iowa schools, came as part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan passed in March.
Gov. Kim Reynolds defended the decision Thursday during a town hall on Fox News.”I think that (Biden) thinks that COVID-19 just started,” Reynolds said during the Fox News town hall. “I just returned $95 million because they sent an additional $95 million to the state of Iowa to get our kids back in the classroom (and) doing surveillance testing, and I said, ‘We’ve been in the classroom since August. Here’s your $95 million back.’”While most schools reopened in August, districts including Des Moines Public Schools delayed returning students to classrooms until October.Iowa Department of Public Health sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last Friday confirming that the funds were sent back.

The department said Iowa has “ample funding and testing capacity for Iowa school districts.”The IDPH letter details how much federal money Iowa schools have yet to use for coronavirus testing.The first Elementary and Secondary Emergency School Relief Fund, or ESSER Fund, passed in 2020 under the first federal coronavirus relief bill.According to the IDPH, Iowa’s ESSER fund has $6.5 million leftover.Combined with second and third ESSER Funds passed in December and March, the IDPH reports $1.1 billion available for COVID-19 testing through the Iowa Department of Education.Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver said the school aid came with “strings attached” and the state already covered the funds’ intended purpose. “With the federal debt out of control, and it has been out of control for many years, if we’re not going to use it in the right ways we shouldn’t be spending it,” Whitver said.Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls disagreed, stating Iowa needs all the help it can muster to get through the pandemic. “Returning federal relief money is like drilling holes in a sinking boat,” Wahls said. “It makes no sense when we know that testing, whether it’s in a school or workplace, is an important part of ensuring that individual cases don’t become outbreaks,” Wahls said.State Auditor Rob Sand said in a statement that Reynolds’ decision to return the pandemic aid “makes no sense.”Sand issued a statement that said, in part, “That money could have created hundreds of strong-paying jobs to administer and assist in testing at schools, sporting events, graduations, and in contact tracing. Iowans would have then spent much of the money from those paychecks in businesses and communities still struggling to recover from the pandemic.”He went on to say turning down the pandemic aid puts students, teachers and school staff at risk of contracting COVID-19.State health officials said they would accept pandemic aid if it could be used for other purposes, including vaccine distribution. Reynolds has advocated for returning and keeping Iowa children in classrooms since the pandemic began.She signed a measure into law in early 2021 requiring schools to offer full-time, in-person instruction.