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Iowa governor signs law granting unemployment benefits to those fired for not being vaccinated

By Shawna Mizelle and Kay Jones, CNN

Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law on Friday that grants unemployment benefits to those who lose their jobs because they refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The measure states that “an individual who is discharged from employment for refusing to receive a vaccination against COVID-19” shall not be “disqualified for benefits.”

After signing the legislation, Reynolds said in a statement that the new law allows Iowans “freedoms and their abilities to make healthcare decisions based on what’s best for themselves and their families.”

President Joe Biden imposed stringent new vaccine rules on federal workers, large employers and health care staff in September in a sweeping attempt to contain the coronavirus. The new rules included an executive order requiring all government employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19, with no option of being regularly tested to opt out, and an accompanying order directing that the same standard be applied to employees of contractors who do business with the federal government. The requirements have received pushback and legislative action from a handful of Republican governors, with Reynolds the most recent.

Iowa is also part of a 10-state coalition that filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration Friday over its vaccine mandate.

“As I’ve stated publicly numerous times, I believe the vaccine is the best defense against COVID-19 and we’ve provided Iowans with the information they need to determine what’s best for themselves and their families, but no Iowan should be forced to lose their job or livelihood over the COVID-19 vaccine,” Reynolds said.

About 55% of Iowans are fully vaccinated, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new law also states that an employer requiring a vaccine “must waive the requirement if the employee, or, if the employee is a minor, the employee’s parent or legal guardian, requests a waiver and makes either of two submissions to the employer.” Those submissions include being unable to take the vaccine for health or religious reasons.

The bill passed the Iowa House by 68-27, then went to the state Senate, which advanced it to the governor’s desk for approval after a 45-4 vote.

Reynolds is the latest Republican governor to push back against the federal vaccine mandates, joining Govs. Kay Ivey of Alabama, Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida.

Ivey on Monday signed an executive order instructing state executive branch agencies to cooperate with the Alabama attorney general’s office as it challenges the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates and, when possible, to not comply with the federal effort.

DeSantis announced on Thursday that a new lawsuit against the Biden administration over the President’s order imposing a vaccine mandate on federal contractors had been officially filed. Abbott issued an executive order earlier this month banning all state entities, including private employers, from enforcing vaccine mandates.
Reynolds said Friday that the new Iowa law was just the “first step.”

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