116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Johnson County’s direct assistance program helping low-income county residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will open on Monday, according to county staff.
The application will be open from noon Monday, April 25, to noon on Monday, May 23.
Donna Brooks, the county’s grants coordinator, told the Johnson County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday the county was waiting to find out the program’s total budget before communicating details about the application period.
Iowa City is contributing $1.5 million of pandemic relief dollars to Johnson County’s direct assistance program, bringing the program’s total to $3.5 million.
The Iowa City Council on Tuesday formally approved a grant agreement with the county for the funds, after informally agreeing to contribute the funds during a work session earlier this year. The grant agreement approved this week was part of the council’s consent agenda.
Under the agreement, up to $150,000 of the funds can be reserved for administrative costs of operating the program. This means at least $1,350,000 of the city’s funds will be distributed to residents.
The city’s contribution of American Rescue Plan Act dollars increases how many can be helped by about 1,000, for a total of 2,500 residents. The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the subrecipient grant agreement during Thursday’s formal meeting.
The direct assistance program is intended to help low-income county residents negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including those previously excluded from pandemic relief payments. Throughout work sessions and formal approval in February, the Board of Supervisors decided the one-time payments will be $1,400 checks mailed to eligible applicants selected by a lottery-based system.
Immigrant workers — including members of Escucha Mi Voz and the Iowa City Catholic Worker House — have been advocating for excluded workers to get priority in direct assistance payments because they have been disproportionately affected during the pandemic. They worry the lottery system will exclude them once again.
The board voted 3-2 in February to finalize the program’s details, including the random distribution system. Supervisors Jon Green and Rod Sullivan argued unsuccessfully against the “lottery” distribution system, saying the county should prioritize payments to individuals excluded from previous federal stimulus payments, such as undocumented immigrants.
Supervisors Royceann Porter, Pat Heiden and Lisa Green-Douglass voted in favor of the random distribution system that supervisors agreed upon during a December work session.
The main eligibility qualifier for the county’s program will be having an income that is 65 percent or more below the area median income — less than $45,370 a year for an individual. Once income is established, additional eligibility markers can include food or housing insecurity, unemployment or exclusion from previous federal stimulus payments.
To be eligible for the payment, individuals must be 18 or older and have lived in Johnson County since March 1, 2020.
Brooks encouraged residents with questions to visit the program’s website at johnsoncountyiowa.gov/direct-assistance-program. She said the county will be communicating details about the program through the website. She suggested residents check the website regularly if questions come up.
The website includes application steps, eligibility criteria, accepted documentation and the selection process. Brooks said the county is urging residents to have their required documentation ready before beginning to fill out the application.
The application should take about 15 minutes to complete, Brooks said.
The website is translated in Spanish, and the application will be available in multiple languages, including Spanish, French, Arabic and Swahili.
Johnson County also will hold a series of application clinics, Brooks said. The first one will be from noon to 6 p.m. May 5.
Approved applicants will receive a check in the mail. The county expects it to take six to eight weeks after the application period closes for applications to be reviewed and processed.
Individuals who need the application translated in an additional language or have questions can email email@example.com for assistance.
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