As our communities continue to work through the impact of COVID-19, the work of journalists becomes even more important. As your Association we hope to provide you with as much support as possible. I will continue to draw to your attention topics that may be helpful or important to you or your business. 

Senate Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act: What Employers Need to Know

This concise article by The National Law Review outlines what employers need to know about how the passage of this bill will impact them. The bill was signed on March 16 and its provision become effective within 15 days. One example, “private sector employers with fewer than 500 workers, along with governmental entities, will have to provide up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for employees who have been on the job for at least 30 days, and who are unable to work or telework because they have to care for a minor child if the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or if the child care provider of that child is unavailable due to a coronavirus emergency.” Click here to learn more.

Iowa Workforce Development and Unemployment Insurance Questions for Employers as it Relates to COVID-19

The Iowa Workforce Development has a helpful question and answer section for employers. Many policies and procedures have recently been streamlined. One example:

Question: I am an employer that needs to temporarily suspend operations or reduce hours for my employees to prevent the spread of the COVID-19. Would I be responsible for benefit charges for my employees who file unemployment?

Answer: No. Iowa Workforce Development will take the appropriate actions to waive the charges for those employers who are forced to do layoffs or reduce work hours for employees due to the COVID-19. Click here to learn more.

Gov. Reynolds signs additional State Public Health Emergency Declaration, which relaxes several regulations including public meetings

This week Gov. Reynolds issued an additional State Public Health Emergency Declaration effective immediately providing additional regulatory relief to Iowans impacted by this public health disaster. This declaration included:

Whereas, the Iowa League of Cities on behalf of numerous local governmental bodies has requested the suspension of Iowa laws that would prevent the use of electronic meetings or the limitation on the number of people present at an in-person meeting site, and that compliance with these requirements would limit cities ability to provide services to aid victims of this disaster.

The Iowa Newspaper Association has communicated with the Iowa Public Information Board that been advising local governments on how to hold electronic meetings— that it remains critical that the public has real time access to meetings in their communities. I encourage all newspapers to work with the government entities in their communities.

132 Organizations Sign Statement on Government Coronavirus Emergency Transparency and Public Access

The Iowa Newspaper Association along with many other organizations representing diverse constituencies and political ideologies agree that our democracy and democratic practices should not be obstructed in the interest of streamlining deliberations and decision making by our governing bodies in this time of crisis. This effort was coordinated by the National Freedom of Information Council. Click here to view the statement including the organizations and their URLs.

 Please share this within your network and distribute it to your state and local public officials. NFOIC is sending it to the following national organizations: National Governors Association, National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA), National Association of Attorneys General – NAAG, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Association of Secretaries of States, United States Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, NACo | National Association of Counties, International City and County Managers Association and National Association of State Boards of Education

Reminder: Essential and Non-Essential Businesses

The Iowa Newspaper Association has proactively reached out to the Governor’s staff to reinforce the importance of the news media, stressing that if a business quarantine or curfews are established, the news media is and should be considered an essential business.

The News Media Alliance also sent a letter this week to Vice President Pence stating that newspapers are vital during this crisis and that we are an essential business. Please editorialize about the important role you have played during this crisis and that the free flow of accurate and timely information is critical. Linked is a column by First Amendment champion Ken Paulson speaking to the vital role of the media – feel free to use. Click here to read and download the column.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security names news media as an essential business

On March 19 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency released a memo that stated,  “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.” Although the list of essential business is advisory in nature it is reassuring that the news media is specifically identified.

 The news media is included under the category of Communications and Information Technology:

Workers who support radio, television, and media service, including, but not limited to front line news reporters, studio, and technicians for newsgathering and reporting. Click here to read the memo.

USPS clarifies that mailing and shipping services are essential service.

The USPS has clarifying that companies in the mailing and shipping services are considered essential services. “Postal and shipping workers, including those in the private sector, are also considered essential critical infrastructure workers under recent guidance issued by the Department of Homeland Security. White House and CDC guidance has also stated that such industries have a special responsibility to maintain normal work schedules.” The intent is to ensure that key parts of the mailing and shipping supply chains remain open during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Click here to read an important letter issued by the United States Postal Service.

News Media Alliance tracks newspapers as an “essential business”

The News Media Alliance has a section of its website with executive orders and information on the “essential business” designation by state. Thus far the following states have some sort of “shelter in place” that is California, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio, Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and W. There are also several cities including Philadelphia. There are many states that have made proclamations that are similar to a “shelter in place” order. Thus far all states have named the media an “essential business”.  Click here for information on how each state has address the media.

The Governor of Illinois went as far as to public thank the media for its work. Here is the statement from Gov. Pritzker:

Today (Sunday) marks the 14th of these daily briefings, two full weeks. So I want to start by saying how appreciative I am to the many members of the media, and to the public who tune in to these press conferences every single day, and help us to get the word out to the broader population of Illinoisians. 

This also feels like an appropriate time to offer an apology to the woman who called my office this week angry that I’ve been interrupting the Bold and the Beautiful, and wanting to know that I too look forward to the days when we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming. 

All kidding aside, getting accurate information disseminated and squashing irresponsible rumors is so critically important, as we wage the battle against COVID-19. So thank you to our residents, for sharing the information that I share, every day with your friends and your neighbors your family, and your social media networks. Thank you again to the reporters and the press who are continuing to do this work in such a difficult time and who are making it a priority to get good factual information out to the public.

Click here for an interactive map along with a brief summary of the state’s order.

Employment proof during a “shelter-in-place” order

If a “shelter-in-place” order was issued in Iowa, you would want your staff to have with them proof that they are employed/contracted by the newspaper. Employees should be prepared to have in their possession a business card, press credential or any other proof to show that they are in fact conducting newspaper business. Additionally, the Iowa Newspaper Association has a letter that newspapers would be available for all members to use. The letter would be made available at the time of the order.  

Government transparency is critical during coronavirus pandemic

On Sunday, March 23, 2020 the Seattle Times published a well written and succinct editorial on the importance of government transparency.  Click here to read the editorial.

America’s Newspapers and Editor & Publisher launch coronavirus information site for news industry 

Aiming to help newspapers and other news organizations navigate the coronavirus public health crisis, America’s Newspapers and Editor & Publisher have launched Media Virus Watch as an online source for the latest COVID-19 information. 

Media Virus Watch will gather from around the industry newsgathering and safety practices, coronavirus data, reporting and presentation innovations, customer service issues and resources for news publishers. It will serve as a hub for webinars on COVID-19 topics critical to the news media and as a portal for news publishers to submit the work and ideas of their organizations.