116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — The 319 Johnson County residents who did not initially receive a $1,400 check from the county’s direct assistance program despite being eligible are likely to receive one after all.
The Iowa City Council at its meeting this week unanimously voted to front just over $456,000 in order to free up county dollars for the 319 residents initially left out.
There was enough funding allocated for the program for everyone to receive a check, but the way the agreement was written impacted the order in which funds were dispersed. Eligible applicants were chosen by random selection.
Residents have pushed for faster action as they’ve been waiting in limbo since mid-July when others received their direct assistance checks.
Council members expressed urgency on Tuesday in getting the remaining residents funded after the county rejected an offer to equally split the cost.
“These are some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” council member Pauline Taylor said.
Iowa City will pay $446,600 in direct assistance payments and $9,432.83 in check processing for a total of $456,032.83. This is in addition to the initial costs estimated between $700,000 and $750,000.
In total, the city will have contributed about $1.2 million to the program, which still is less than the $1.5 million it budgeted.
The checks went to low-income residents negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including residents excluded from the COVID-19 relief checks most people received early in the pandemic.
City and county officials have highlighted the fact that the program is the only one of its kind in the state.
The direct assistance program had a budget of about $3.5 million — $2 million from Johnson County, $1.5 million from Iowa City, and $30,000 from Coralville — but only about $2.7 million was used. A funding agreement between the county and city required the county to use its funds first.
Iowa City funds could only be used on city residents. Once it was time for the city’s funds to be distributed, there were fewer eligible city residents than anticipated.
The 319 residents who were initially left out either live in a different city or in unincorporated Johnson County. Applicants who have an Iowa City address but live in unincorporated Johnson County were not eligible for city funds.
Council members earlier this month said they didn’t think the city should bear the full cost. The council sent a letter to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors with a proposal to split the cost equally between the two entities.
The board of supervisors, at its work session last week, rejected that proposal. Council members said they were disappointed by the county’s rejection but emphasized the importance of getting all eligible residents a check and getting the program wrapped up.
Escucha Mi Voz, the group that has advocated for payments to excluded workers, said getting the city to agree to fund all residents is a victory of community organizing. The group has been organizing and advocating for direct payments since April 2021.
Council member Janice Weiner said she has “great respect” for those who advocated for these payments.
"We are doing something that really others have not done in this state for people who worked for all of us,“ Weiner said. ”I would really like that to be the take-away despite the difficulties of these last few weeks.“
Update on Forest View relocation
Council members also heard an update on other projects funded by American Rescue Plan Act dollars, including the Forest View relocation payments.
Earlier this year, the city council unanimously approved a voluntary relocation program intended to help residents of Forest View Mobile Home Court find stable housing before the park closes. The cost of the relocation program could range between $1.3 million and $1.4 million.
Residents of the deteriorating park were promised new homes under a 2019 deal that stalled and failed.
The Center for Worker Justice held two clinics in May to help residents complete eligibility forms.
A total of 26 households have received the full payment of $15,750 and have since relocated, according to the city. Another 51 households received the first check, with nine already relocating. Three households have eligibility forms still pending or need additional documentation.
The Center for Worker Justice is helping residents find safe and affordable housing as they prepare to relocate.
All tenants must vacate by Dec. 9, at which time it is expected the owners will close the mobile home park.
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