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Newscast 03.24.22: NAIA Women's Basketball Tournament Brings Millions to Siouxland Economy; Two State Departments to Merge

NAIA Womens Basketball Championship
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304 News 032422

Iowans will soon be referring to a new state agency name: The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services.

Administrators will merge the Iowa Department of Public Health with the Iowa Department of Human Services, which already is the largest agency in state government, according to the Des Moines Register.

The agencies released a preliminary organization chart Thursday, which they plan to begin putting into place this year. A budget bill introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives this week includes language that would bolster administrators’ authority to make the changes.

The two departments have already shared a leader since the summer of 2020. That’s when the health department’s director retired and Human Services Director Kelly Garcia will also now be the interim director of the health department.

The Iowa House has unanimously approved a bill that defines elder abuse as a crime and sets up enhanced penalties for assaulting or defrauding an older Iowan. The bill applies to alleged crimes against dependent adults or individuals who are 60 or older.

The bill cleared the Iowa Senate last year. House members have made a small change to the legislation, to ensure family members or guardians don’t get charged for steps to protect an older Iowan by, for example, taking their car keys if they’re no longer a safe driver or telling a bank to stop allowing withdrawals on the person’s accounts.

Metro area hotels, restaurants and other businesses reported a big bump in sales from the thousands of visitors attracted to the 16-team NAIA tournament, which began March 17. Local officials estimated the total economic impact for the region at $3.75 million.

Attendance for the 15 games over five days totaled 10,106, Over 3,000 fans packed the lower levels of the arena for Tuesday's title game.

The vast majority made the roughly hour drive from the Sioux Center area to see if Dordt University would win its first national championship in women's basketball. The St. Thomas More Saints defeated Dordt, 75-65, in the title game.

The South Dakota women's basketball team's run to the NCAA Sweet 16 has elicited pride border to border. Many fans are expected in Wichita, Kansas, for the game between the 10th-seeded Coyotes and No. 3 seed Michigan on Saturday. South Dakota has an enrollment of just under 11,000, and its campus is in the small town of Vermillion in the state's southeast corner.

University president Sheila Gestring said the success has created buzz in the tight-knit Coyote Nation. Four players are from the state and eight others are from Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa.

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