Iowa Department of Human Rights Newsletter

iowa department of human rights

December 23, 2020

We are here to help.

The Iowa Department of Human Rights (DHR) brings strength to Iowa's rich heritage.  Our three divisions - Community Action Agencies, Community Advocacy and Services, and Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning - work to reduce cultural, social, and economic barriers to opportunities for Iowans to succeed.

Thank You!

Life as we know it has changed in 2020.  During the pandemic, we adapted to a "new normal" for work, school, business, going out, and socializing.  Virtual meetings have become a new way to connect. Online learning is the new classroom.  Food is delivered or picked up curbside. We developed new habits of wearing masks, social distancing, and washing our hands. Everyday life has changed in many different ways. 

Through this experience, we've seen communities come together to protect and support each other.  We would like to thank our staff; Commission, Board and Council Members; and all of our partners and stakeholders for their work in keeping Iowans safe, healthy, and informed in 2020.  Thank you for your dedication and commitment in supporting our mission. 

Can employers require employees to get vaccinated?  

A common question that has been asked is whether employers can require employees to get vaccinated. 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has updated its technical assistance page What You Should Know about COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and other Equal Employment Opportunity Laws.  Notably, Section K provides guidance and considerations for employers when developing vaccination policies. 

Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines

With the COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon, you  may have questions about the benefits of getting vaccinated, how the vaccines work, types of vaccines,  its safety, possible side effects, and how to continue health and safety practices.  Here are some facts about the COVID-19 vaccines. You can get further explanations of these facts on the CDC's website.  

  • COVID-19 vaccines will not give you COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 vaccines will not cause you to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests.
  • People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated.
  • Getting vaccinated can help prevent getting sick with COVID-19.
  • Receiving an mRNA vaccine will not alter your DNA.

Additional language resources:

Holiday Ask Wear a Mask 

As COVID-19 cases continue, we will have to make some tough decisions about the way we are celebrating the holidays. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges everyone to stay home this holiday season to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The safest way to celebrate is at home with the people you live with. Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19. 

This holiday season, we join the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health in their HolidayAskWearAMask campaign and encourage everyone to wear a mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands wherever you choose to celebrate. Together we can make this a safe and healthier holiday. 

Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year. We encourage families to celebrate virtually or with the people you live with as the safest choice this holiday season. 

New U.S. Citizenship Test

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has revised the civics portion for the 2020 naturalization test.  For applications filed after December 1, 2020, the 2020 version of the civics test will be given. For applications filed before December 1, 2020, the 2008 version will be given.  The civics portion tests your knowledge of U.S. history and government.  The USCIS website has a civics practice test, information on what to expect, tips for studying, and a study tool app.  

USAHello has helpful tools and citizenship test questions and answers in translated languages to help you prepare.  Check out their website for additional resources.

Iowa Emergency Solutions Grant CARES Act 

The Emergency Solutions Grant program helps prevent households from becoming homeless due to eviction, and assists Iowans experiencing homelessness to quickly regain rental housing.  Examples of assistance available to eligible individuals include rent and utility payments, including in arrears, legal assistance, application fees, security and utility deposits, moving costs, case management and credit repair. All financial assistance is paid directly to landlords and service providers  The assistance will remain available until all funds are exhausted or September 30, 2022.

For assistance and eligibility, call the Housing Recovery help line at 1-833-739-0065 or use the Regional Coordinated Entry Contact Finder to find a service agency in your area

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps qualifying low-income Iowa homeowners and renters pay for a portion of their primary heating costs for the winter heating season. The application period is November 1, 2020 - April 30, 2021. Customers who qualify for LIHEAP are protected from having their natural gas and electric utilities disconnected from November 1 to April 1.

Applications are taken at your local community action agency.  Anyone facing disconnection at any time should contact their local community action agency for assistance.

To find your local agency, visit, or contact the Iowa Department of Human Rights (DHR) at (515) 242-5655 or 1-800-351-4659. LIHEAP information is available in multiple languages on the DHR's website.  

COVID-19 Language Resources

American Sign Language Videos-CDC

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-Resources for Limited English Proficient Populations

Congolese Health Partnership Videos

Coronavirus, State Website

Crescent Community Health Center-Marshallese Language

EMBARC Ethnic Minorities of Burma and Advocacy and Resource Center

Hawaii Office of Language Access-Youtube

Iowa Department of Human Rights-Language Access

Iowa Department of Public Health

Iowa Spanish Helpline 515-344-3936 

Multi-Lingual Hotline  1-877-558-2609

Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa  

Test Iowa-Free COVID-19 Testing (Spanish available)

Previous Newsletters

December 11, 2020

November 25, 2020

November 13, 2020


Are there other resources we should know about? Let us know.

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Iowa Department of Human Rights
Lucas State Office Building
321 E 12th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
515-242-5640 or 1-800-351-4659
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