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Latest coronavirus updates: March 16 | 5:13 p.m.


Public Health and Government
Gov. Kim Reynolds
announced new assistance released by Iowa Workforce Development for employees and employers affected by related layoffs, including guidance for employees filing for unemployment insurance claims. Individuals laid off due to COVID-19 can receive unemployment benefits if they meet all other eligibility requests. Claims filed and identified as a result of COVID-19 will not be charged to employers, and fact-finding interviews for these claims will be waived and not held, although employers will be notified of claims received. A full explanation of benefit eligibility is available online.

The Iowa attorney general’s office will remain open but is not accepting appointments or face-to-face meetings until further notice, Attorney General Tom Miller announced today. The public is encouraged to call 515-281-5164 or email webteam@ag.iowa.gov; hours remain 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but the office will be minimally staffed, Miller said in a statement. A full statement and information on specific divisions is available online

Mediacom has extended service speeds in low-cost packages and paused monthly data allowances across all broadband service tiers through May 15, the company announced this afternoon. The Mediacom Connect2Compete package has increased speed to 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for download and 3 Mbps upload (previously 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload); discounted pricing of the Access Internet 60 to new customers for the next 12 months; and is providing complementary access to Mediacom Xtream Wi-Fi hotspots for 60 days. The company also signed the 60-day Keep Americans Connected Pledge issued by Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai, pledging not to disconnect service or assess late fees to any customer who calls and informs the company that they cannot pay their bills during this period.

Iowa Business Council: People’s health and well-being most important 
“The health and wellbeing of IBC member employees, customers, and clients are the most important factors our members are considering as they continue to take precautions as a result of recent COVID-19 developments,” the council’s executive director, Joe Murphy, said in an emailed statement today. “Each of our IBC members have teams dedicated to the issue and any decision relating to remote work, travel, and other business items will be made by the individual company itself. IBC members continue to follow the guidance of the CDC and encourages anyone to receive medical care if necessary.” The organization is made up of 23 chief executives from Iowa’s largest organizations, which together represent one out of every six jobs in the state. 

Principal confident in ‘robust business continuity plans’ 
With operations around the world, Principal Financial Group said it is actively testing its emergency plans, the company’s president and CEO, Dan Houston, wrote in a post on its website.  

“While it’s too early to know the exact impact the virus may have on our businesses or market performance, I’m confident that our robust business continuity plans will allow us to continue to operate and serve customers around the world, even in markets that are significantly impacted by COVID-19,” Houston wrote. “We’re actively testing these plans within the realities of the COVID-19 situation to better understand the implications of the virus, and to adjust our policies and operations accordingly.

“Many of those adjustments are focused on the safety of our employees and their families — altering our travel policies, assessing large group meetings and events, and reviewing the cleaning processes at our facilities. Most importantly, we’re encouraging any employee who may have been exposed to the virus or feeling ill to stay home — and we have flexible work policies in place to accommodate this.”

FBL Financial reviewing all company travel: CEO 
The coronavirus emergency has been a nearly daily discussion at FBL Financial Group, CEO Dan Pitcher said late last week. 

“We don’t have an extensive amount of travel to urban areas, per se,” he said. “But we have recommended that the management team members review all business travel that their staff have planned and just make sure it’s necessary. And, of course, we’re communicating once or twice a week with the employees on our hub anything from the CDC that we think would add value to sharing with the employees and getting it all in one place — recommendations on hygiene and things like that that are coming from the CDC. 

“We’re trying to keep it in perspective. At the same time, making sure we’re paying attention to not under-reacting and not over-reacting. So, a lot of companies have canceled travel almost altogether, but many of those have a lot more [than our company]. We have an investor conference coming up on the 23rd and 24th of this month in New York that was canceled. And I’m guessing it was because of attendance.”

Arts and Culture
The Science Center of Iowa is closed to the public until March 27, the organization announced this morning. All programming is canceled. The SCI Preschool will remain open through March 20 and next steps are still being evaluated, the organization said in a statement. Ongoing updates will be available online.  

The Des Moines Art Center is closed to the public until April 6, staff announced today. Ongoing updates are available online

The Sugar Creek Municipal Golf Course in Waukee is closed entirely to the public. 

The Ankeny Kirkendall Public Library is closed to the public for the next four weeks, staff announced this afternoon. Library items currently check out will not incur late feels during the closure; online resources, including e-books and digital learning tools, are available at www.ankenyiowa.gov/library

The Young Entrepreneur Convention is postponed until further notice, event organizers announced on Facebook this morning. Organizers anticipate announcing a new fall date in May with the full speaker lineup, and plan to host the event in Ames as originally scheduled. Ongoing updates will be available on Facebook

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