116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Public input collected over the summer shows residents have a variety of ideas for how they want the city of Iowa City to use its federal pandemic relief aid, including helping undocumented immigrants, providing premium pay for essential workers and investing in affordable housing.
In a memo to the Iowa City Council, Assistant City Manager Rachel Kilburg listed 12 common suggestions that city staff received. City staff is taking this input into consideration in its recommendations, which will be presented Tuesday to the City Council during an informal work session.
The Fund Excluded Workers Coalition has been asking for federal pandemic relief dollars to go to undocumented immigrants, previously incarcerated individuals and unemployed workers. Kilburg previously told The Gazette that allocating relief funds to undocumented immigrants is permissible.
Residents also said in the survey the want to see the city use the funding on improving access to high-speed internet, expanding mental health services, enhancing public transit and increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, among other suggestions.
The city will receive $18.3 million as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion relief package to respond nationally to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city received half its funds in May and is expected to receive the remaining funds in May 2022. The money must be allocated by the end of December 2024 and spent by December 2026.
There are four categories that the funds can be used toward:
- Responding to negative public health and economic impacts
- Premium pay for essential workers
- Replacing lost government revenue
- Necessary infrastructure improvements, such as water, sewer and broadband
At a work session in May, the council adopted eight principles to help with prioritization of funds. Among the principles were avoiding duplication with other relief programs, supporting future government operations, making lasting changes in physical and social infrastructure, mitigating racial inequities and supporting climate action. The council also wants to “demonstrate compliance and transparency through regular public reporting.”
The city kicked off its initial phase of public input earlier this summer with an online survey, a listening session at Mercer Park and inviting neighborhood groups and stakeholders to share ideas.
The online survey received 1,892 responses. Respondents were asked to rank 10 approved funding categories in order of importance. There was also a free response area to share specific suggestions.
The top three priorities that came out of the ranking were addressing economic disparities and physical and mental health disparities, and supporting nonprofits and social service agencies.
The city and Johnson County government are looking to collaborate on spending decisions. The two governments previously indicated they are interested in working together to distribute the funds.
Johnson County government is receiving $29.3 million under the act.
“Careful coordination with the County is needed to ensure relief dollars are stretched as far as possible and have the greatest impact on residents,” Kilburg wrote to council members.
The recommendations presented Tuesday will identify top priorities based in two areas: urgent community need projects and strategic investment projects. Initial estimates will exceed the city’s $18.3 allocation due to the likely overlap between city and county priorities, Kilburg wrote.
The work session begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the assembly room of the Senior Center, 28 S Linn St. The meeting will be streamed online on the city’s Facebook page and City Channel 4.
Comments: (319) 339-3155; email@example.com