State auditor response to COVID-19 pandemic

By Rob Sand

Iowans all across this state are going through a similar range of emotions together. COVID-19 haunts our communities like a dangerous ghost. The uncertainty of how we get through can feel daunting at times. But personally, every time I think how badly I want to sit down with friends for a game, or meet someone for a meal, or go to a small town festival or high school performance, I remind myself my personal desires are small. I am still employed, I am still healthy, and I have not lost a loved one to what is now the leading cause of death in our nation.

And, I am not a health care professional on the front line, facing risk each day. I spoke recently with two friends who are doctors in our nation’s hotspots. One has seen two colleagues fall ill. One died. Yet he carries on, caring for anyone who may be in front of him. He is my age, with his wife and their two young children in his home, a place he has not been to in a month as he quarantines himself. If he can do that, we can do what we need to do to protect each other and our own Iowa healthcare heroes.

The State Auditor’s Office has found ways to help. As the first public office in the state to suspend travel and require our employees to work at home, we are doing our part to fight the spread. We’ve announced that spending public dollars to encourage takeout and delivery from local restaurants is appropriate, and offered blanket audit deadline extensions.

Personally, I created the Iowans Helping Iowans project, where the unemployed, self-employed, first responders and other essential employees can get reimbursed for three meals (up to $40 each) at local restaurants, who are also hit hard by closure orders. Over 500 meals have been paid for through contributions from Iowans, and a month of my own salary. I did it as a reminder that all of us, no matter who, no matter how small, can find ways to help those who need help right now. I ask you to do the same in whatever ways you can.

And as we do that, as the number of days of physical distancing grows and our new routines become more familiar to us, we must not allow physical distancing to make us actually socially distant. We must be creative in how we connect with and help one another.

Call your neighbors. If you can, get the coffee group back through FaceTime or Zoom. Reach out to your faith leader if you’re not able to participate in virtual services. Be sure to wave to the jogger on your street, and to your neighbors and show you’re thinking about them. Every great test we face, we overcome with our faith and reliance on each other. To defeat this, we must not deviate, but trust in one another and stay the course.

We must also put aside politics and have faith in our public institutions. I campaigned for state auditor promising to put the public ahead of my party when the facts called for it, just as I did as assistant attorney general prosecuting officials from both parties. During this pandemic, I have publicly advocated for more transparency and more reliable data from our governor. Yet I have praised some of her other decisions and actions. Why? Because I meant what I said when I was campaigning: let the good be called good, and the bad be called bad, regardless of partisanship. And because now more than ever, we need a return to a government based on truth, integrity and accountability.

Please find your ways to serve. Take this impending rebirth as a time to put away childish things, and refocus on supporting what is good in your life and in your state. We will come through this, during it having written a history not of what happened to us but how we responded to it. When we are through it, we will determine what we will be.

(Rob Sand is State Auditor for the State of Iowa.)

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