The Iowa Department for the Blind continues to offer vocational rehabilitation and independent living services via phone and internet. We are continuing to provide educational materials in alternative formats to K–12 students and braille and audio books to library patrons. we continue to work to improve our remote service delivery and use technology to create programs that will continue beyond the pandemic. Our Business Enterprise Program is working with the Lt. Governor’s Feeding Iowa Taskforce to get products that would have gone to waste to hungry Iowans. . We will offer another session of training to para-educators June 8 and are working on creating a self-paced version that would allow more paras to participate. We are working on guidelines and timelines for resuming in person services using reasonable precautions. While many services we offer can be provided just as effectively and efficiently at a distance, other services are far more effective when delivered in person. We are also communicating and collaborating with other agencies across the country to share best practices and pool resources. Like our colleagues across the country, we are concerned that any potential cut to our 2021 state appropriation would have severe repercussions for our ability to meet maintenance of effort requirements. A more complete explanation is provided below.

Open Letter to Legislators Regarding Maintenance of Effort Considerations

I know that there are so many issues before you in putting in place the 2021 budget request. I can’t even guess at how many difficult choices you all need to make and this is compounded by how much is still unknowable about the long-term impact of our current crisis. Obviously IDB would very much like to receive the appropriation listed in the Governor’s original budget. Our agency has been working extremely hard to do more with less, recruit highly talented professionals from within Iowa and across the country, and emerge strong and efficient from the years of de-appropriation. We hope that the strong position of the state prior to the crisis combined with the Governor’s measured and reasonable response will reduce the need for significant alterations to the original budget. However, if the forecast is such that we need to tighten our belts again, it is vital to our agency that we not get into a position where we are unable to make our maintenance of effort requirements. It is possible to receive a waiver of the MOE requirement if the failure to meet MOE is due to some kind of economic downturn that has resulted in the entire state implementing budget cuts. The budget situation created by the Coronavirus emergency would certainly meet that requirement. However, the waiver would only be granted so long as the agencies subject to the MOE requirement were not cut more than agencies that were not subject to the MOE requirement.

For IDB to avoid a MOE penalty, we must spend as much on our vocational rehabilitation program in FFY 20 as we did in FFY 18. Because of this, cuts to our state appropriation tend to require us to divert state dollars from programs serving older individuals losing vision to our vocational rehabilitation program. Because services to older individuals losing vision are so dramatically underfunded on the federal level, we have needed to use state dollars to fill this gap and do our best to give older iowans the services they deserve. We have worked hard to recruit and train energetic and passionate teachers to serve these individuals and are finally beginning to reach a staffing level that can come close to serving the state effectively. A cut to this program would be devastating to the program and those we serve. We’ve seen so clearly how crucial it is to help people to remain independent in their own homes and avoid unnecessary placements in long-term care facilities.

It would be exceedingly impactful to us that programs subject to a MOE requirement be pegged at the lowest level of the budget cut range should there not be a single or flat statewide budget cut amount. For instance, if agencies are asked to cut between 3% and 10%, the agencies subject to MOE would not be required to cut more than 3%. This way, the agencies subject to a MOE requirement would very likely be able to obtain waivers of any MOE penalty. The cognizant federal agency for IDB and IVRS is the Rehabilitation Services Administration within US DOE, and RSA is extremely strict with respect to MOE and other fiscal issues. I should add that there is discussion of granting MOE waivers in Congress, but we cannot be certain of that happening. It could also be that the MOE waiver process would only be streamlined. The waiver process is currently extremely difficult and complex.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any concerns or questions.


Emily Wharton, MFA CPM
Director, Iowa Department for the Blind

IDB Helps Farmer Adjust To Doing Business in the Time of COVID–19

Because of the need to shut down or dramatically alter farmer’s markets, Caroline, needed to find another way to sell her meat and milk. She arranged for online ordering and contactless pick-up at her farm. In order to ready the orders, she needed an additional magnifying device called a CCTV to put in her barn. IDB assisted her in obtaining a loaner device. She is now able to fulfill orders and is doing a brisk business. Her customers are enjoying the opportunity to see the farm and all the animals.

Library Statistics and Updates

Between April 1st and May 17th:

  • 57,661 books have been checked out
  • 1,141 patrons have received books
  • 412 books have been sent to youth in our Books for Kids program
  • 1,326 books have been sent to senior care facilities and nursing homes
  • 67 new patrons have been added
  • 60 virtual library programs have been offered (IDB Read, Educator trainings, Tech Time and Braille Bits)
  • 20 Paraeducators and Associates have participated in our two-week online trainings and other online classes (we have offered 2 two-week sessions and four online classes)

The Library and the Instructional Materials Center are:

  • continuing our virtual programming for patrons (IDB Read, Braille Bits and Book Discussions)
  • continuing our planning for a youth Summer Reading Program with a virtual program for our youth patrons and approximately 100 public libraries
  • the Instructional Materials Center continues to provide guidance and produce accessible educational materials for students for continuous learning plans and for next school year

Business Enterprise Program Looks To Partner with the Feeding Iowa Taskforce

The Governor’s office reached out this week and BEP Program Administrator, Kathy Roat, had a call with Lt. Governor Adam Gregg on Tuesday. The Lt. Governor was delighted to learn that the Iowa Department for the Blind had associations with the vending in government buildings and the rest areas. As the Governor has charged him with leading the Feeding Iowa Taskforce, he is working to identify gaps and fill them. Vending is new to the conversation and he is looking for opportunities to partner. Two ways he hopes BEP Vendors and vending generally can help solve food challenges through food pantries statewide. and helping institutions that are suddenly lacking snack and some food resources. Some vendors already have a practice of giving to the homeless shelters and pantries and this may give IDB the opportunity to assist in expanding that giving.

What IDB Does for Iowans

  • Turn tax-users into taxpayers
  • Bring in almost four federal dollars for every state dollar invested
  • Reduce the usage of public assistance programs by assisting those on such programs to go to or return to work
  • Provide equipment to businesses and their employees so they can continue to do their jobs
  • provide education funding, adjustment to blindness skills training, counseling and guidance, and other crucial services to put youth through apprenticeships, college, and other post-secondary education
  • put blind youth and adults on the road to careers that will sustain them and their families
    ,* Assist budding entrepreneurs to realize their dreams of starting their own businesses which ultimately provide job opportunities for others
  • supply blind and low vision K–12 students with educational materials in alternative formats so that they can receive a free and appropriate public education
  • give all blind and low vision Iowans access to daily newspapers, books, and magazines
  • assist seniors losing vision to stay in their homes, remain independent, and enjoy their retirement

For More Information

To learn more about IDB programs and services: visit our website:

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Visit our YouTube channel:

To apply for vocational rehabilitation or independent living services,
Complete our referral form
or call 515–281–1333

To apply for library services, call 515–281–1323
For more information about library services, visit these links:

Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Blog:

Instructional Materials Center Blog: