Governor hints she’ll seek more changes in Iowa’s unemployment system

Gov. Kim Reynolds. [courtesy Radio Iowa]

By O. Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa
New work search requirements for laid off Iowa workers who’ve qualified for unemployment benefits go into effect Monday. Governor Kim Reynolds is hinting she’ll propose more changes.

“The unemployment code was written a long, long, long time ago when we were in a much different position,” Reynolds said this week during an Iowa Capitol Press Association forum, “and today we need to incentivize work, not pay people to stay home.”

Starting Monday, those who’ve qualified for unemployment checks will have to prove they’ve applied for at least three jobs each week in order to keep the benefits. The state’s Workforce Development agency has hired 18 new case managers who’ll advise the newly unemployed of career training and job openings.

“We have more job openings than we have people on unemployment,” Reynolds said Tuesday.

Bolstering Iowa’s workforce is the common thread as Reynolds and legislators discuss beefing up job training programs and addressing the state’s shortage of child care clots and affordable housing.

“All business and industry talk to me about when I am traveling the state and I am in communities, I don’t care what size they are — small, medium, large — doesn’t matter what sector, they have great capacity for growth, they’ve had record years…supply chain is also having an impact, but workforce is by far their biggest issue,” Reynolds said.

Iowa’s labor participation rate — the number of working-age people who have a job or are looking for one — has not bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. Iowa Federation of Labor president Charlie Wishman said having lawmakers “tinker” with the unemployment system doesn’t address that.

“I definitely think that there’s going to be a whole lot of action around trying to address this idea that we simply don’t have enough workers for the amount of jobs that are needed to make this state run,” Wishman said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “This is a problem that’s been building for a long time and it’s not a problem that’s going to be solved overnight.”

The 2022 Iowa legislative session starts Monday. Governor Reynolds will outline her legislative priorities in the annual “Condition of the State” message on Tuesday night.