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NEWS 5.21.21: C19 Rates and Unemployment Fall in Siouxland, EPA Grant and More


COVID-19 cases continue to fall in all three Siouxland states.

COVID-19 positivity rates continue to go down in the state of Iowa. The current level is below 3%, with Woodbury County slightly higher at 3.2%.  The Iowa Department of Public Health recorded 176 additional cases, with four in Woodbury County. There were seven additional deaths added to the total number of deaths statewide since the pandemic. Siouxland Public Health urges anyone 12 or older to get vaccinated.

Credit Siouxland District Health

In Nebraska, the state’s vaccine dashboard shows more than 53% of Nebraskans 16 and older have been fully vaccinated. There were just over 100 new case and 75 hospitalizations in the state.

The Argus Leader reports, infections in South Dakota have fallen for 17 days in a row. There were only 34 new cases reported on Friday and no new deaths.

The Sioux City Community School District's weekly trend report shows no new cases of COVID-19 with students or staff. The number of students in quarantine has fallen to 88. 

Credit Sioux City Community School District

Nebraska retained its spot as the state with the nation’s lowest unemployment rate last month as the percentage improved slightly. Nebraska reported seasonally adjusted April unemployment of 2.8%, tied with New Hampshire, South Dakota and Utah.

Nebraska’s rate in March was 2.9%. The rates are substantially better than they were at the same time last year, when the pandemic and social-distancing restrictions triggered widespread layoffs. The unemployment rate in April 2020 was 7.4% statewide, 8.7% in Omaha and 8% in Lincoln. The local unemployment rates from last month were 2.9% in Omaha, 2.2% in Lincoln and 2.5% in Grand Island.

Iowa’s unemployment rose in April to 3.8% as the number of residents with jobs fell slightly. The Iowa Workforce Development agency reported Friday that the rate for April increased from a March unemployment rate of 3.7%. Iowa’s rate was the nation’s 10th lowest and compared to a national rate for April of 6.1%. Data released by the state showed that the number of unemployed Iowans increased by 800 to 61,600 people. The total number employed was nearly 1.6 million.

The latest jobs report in South Dakota shows unemployment claims continuing to decline, but an uptick in first-time claims kept the employment picture relatively stable.

The Department of Labor reported 364 initial weekly claims Thursday, an increase of 59 from the previous week. This number has hovered around 300 in recent weeks.

First-time claims rose to several thousand per week in the early months of the pandemic, then averaged between 500 to 900 through the rest of 2020, KSFY-TV reported. In recent months, first-time claims have held steady near pre-pandemic levels of 200 to 300 per week. 

Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Sioux City will receive a Brownfields grant of $300,000. The money will go toward assessing areas that need revitalizing in the community, including the old stockyards and downtown. The Biden administration commitment funds to help project communities impacted by contaminated land and decay (More information in news release found below).

A defense attorney says a farmworker accused of killing a University of Iowa student in 2018 fell asleep during a lengthy police interrogation, indicating his partial confession may have been coerced while he was sleep deprived. Cristhian Bahena Rivera is charged with first-degree murder in the July 2018 killing of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts. Jurors watched video Friday showing Bahena Rivera appearing to nod off for several minutes during the 11-hour interrogation in August 2018. Defense attorney Jennifer Frese said the videos showing him sleeping and the harsh interrogation techniques pointed to a potentially coerced confession.

A new advocacy group for Latinos in the state will begin sometime next month. It’s called the Iowa Latino Alliance and will be made up entirely of volunteers seeking to improve the lives of the state’s Latinos. This formal, statewide entity has not been done before, according to the Office of Latino Affairs. Caleb Knutson is the chair of the Commission of Latino Affairs. He says this new alliance is different from the commission. It is not run through a government department and members do not need to be approved by the governor.

“It boils down to representation again. And I think that that’s the drum that I will continue to beat day in and day out is representation.”

Knutson says since the commission is at a quote “stalemate” to add new members, the alliance will likely be able to move forward more quickly in their endeavors.

A federal judge will allow a Native American tribe to join legal arguments opposing South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s efforts to put on a July Fourth fireworks display at Mount Rushmore. The Republican governor has sued the Department of the Interior after the National Park Service denied the state a permit to hold a fireworks display at the monument. Chief Judge Roberto Lange ruled the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe can join the case. Lange granted the tribe’s request in part because the Park Service cited concerns from local Native American tribes for denying the state’s application.

News release from the EPA:

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) selected the City of Sioux City, Iowa to receive $300,000 in EPA Brownfields funding through the Multipurpose, Assessment, and Cleanup (MAC) Grant Program. During the press event at City Hall, Acting EPA Region 7 Administrator Edward H. Chu presented a novelty big check to Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott.

The City plans to conduct 14 Phase I and eight Phase II environmental site assessments with the grant funding. Additionally, the City will conduct reuse planning and community involvement activities. Assessment activities will take place throughout Sioux City, including the “Stockyards” and the downtown area.

“Through our Brownfields Program, EPA is delivering on the Biden administration’s commitment to lifting up and protecting overburdened communities across America, especially communities that have experienced long periods of disinvestment and decay,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “These assessment and cleanup grants will not only support economic growth and job creation, but they will also empower communities to address the environmental, public health, and social issues associated with contaminated land.”

“Communities can achieve important outcomes with Brownfields MAC funding,” said Acting EPA Region 7 Administrator Edward H. Chu. “Sioux City is taking the steps to revitalize several properties through environmental site assessments, reuse planning, and community involvement. These actions lay the foundation for building resilient and thriving neighborhoods.”

“We are grateful for the support and the funding our community has received from the EPA,” said Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott. “These funds will allow us to complete site assessments and encourage private investment and redevelopment that might not otherwise occur.”

The list of the fiscal year 2021 applicants selected for funding is available at:  www.epa.gov/brownfields/applicants-selected-fy-2021-brownfields-multipurpose-assessment-and-cleanup-grants.

EPA anticipates that it will award the grants once all legal and administrative requirements are satisfied by the selected recipients.

Since its inception in 1995, EPA's Brownfields Program has provided nearly $1.76 billion in grants to assess and clean up contaminated properties and return them to productive reuse. This has led to significant benefits for communities across the country. For example:

·      To date, communities participating in the Brownfields Program have been able to attract over $34.4 billion in cleanup and redevelopment funding after receiving Brownfields funds. This has led to over 175,500 jobs in cleanup, construction and redevelopment.

·      Based on grant recipient reporting, recipients leveraged an average of $20.13 for each EPA Brownfields dollar and 10.3 jobs per $100,000 of EPA Brownfield Grant funds expended on assessment, cleanup, and revolving loan fund cooperative agreements.

·      In addition, an academic peer-reviewed study has found that residential properties near brownfield sites increased in value by 5% to 15.2% as a result of cleanup activities.

·      Finally, analyzing data near 48 brownfields, EPA found an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional tax revenue for local governments in a single year after cleanup – two to seven times more than the $12.4 million EPA contributed to the cleanup of those brownfield sites.

Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.
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