Governor rejects fears law on Covid shots will have much impact on unemployment system
Governor Reynolds (Radio Iowa)

DES MOINES — Governor Kim Reynolds is offering a narrow interpretation of the bill she signed into law last month about Covid vaccination requirements for private sector workers.

According to Reynolds, only those workers who claim a religious or medical exemption — and have that claim rejected by their employer — are eligible for unemployment benefits.

“They just don’t decide to not get one and then get on unemployment,” Reynolds said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “They actually have to submit a waiver and if the waiver is rejected, then they qualify for unemployment.”

In late October, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry told legislators the law “didn’t solve the problem you are trying to solve” and there’s a risk businesses will have to pay higher state taxes to cover this new group of employees who’ve refused Covid shots and now qualify for unemployment benefits. Reynolds suggests it won’t be a large group of unvaccinated Iowans qualifying for employment.

“We’re not going to let that get out of hand,” Reynolds told Radio Iowa. “We’re going to continue to manage it, but you know we’re protecting Iowans and their rights and their freedom and liberty to make the choice for their health care and that’s where we’re going to stay.”

Reynolds said she heard from many Iowa employers, particularly in the health care industry, who have been worried about staffing shortages if they’re required to dismiss workers who don’t get a Covid shot. Reynolds has joined three, multi-state lawsuits challenging federal vaccination requirements that would impact tens of millions of U.S. workers.