116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Johnson County supervisors are developing rules for the new Direct Assistance Program, funded by federal pandemic relief dollars, that will help low-income residents impacted by COVID-19 or previously excluded from previous pandemic relief payments.
The board last month approved $5.6 million for the first projects funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.
The projects include $1 million for one-time relief payments to county residents impacted by COVID or ineligible for the pandemic relief payments received by most Americans, including undocumented immigrants.
Another $1 million in payments will be allocated in fiscal year 2023.
The Fund Excluded Workers Coalition has been organizing and advocating for direct payments in Iowa City and Johnson County since April.
Earlier this week, the group spoke during Board of Supervisors’ meetings in Louisa and Polk counties to advocate for pandemic relief for immigrant workers.
During a Wednesday work session, Johnson County supervisors decided to focus eligibility for the payments on individuals rather than households.
To be eligible individuals must be adults at least 18 years old or emancipated minors, though discretion will be considered for unique circumstances.
Individuals also must have been Johnson County residents since March 1, 2020. That date was chosen since that is when closures and layoffs across the county began due to the pandemic, said Donna Brooks, the county’s grants coordinator.
The first cases of COVID-19 in Iowa were reported in Johnson County on March 8.
County staff also recommended having multiple “qualifiers” of eligibility.
Supervisors decided the main eligibility qualifier will be having a low to moderate income that is 60 percent or less than the area median income — that is, below $41,880 a year for an individual.
Once income is established, additional eligibility markers — meant for “flexibility, not exclusion,” Brooks said — can include food or housing insecurity, unemployment or exclusion from previous federal stimulus relief payments.
“Johnson County also believes that we can reach those people who were left out of previous federal stimulus programs by showing that not receiving that stimulus was, in fact, a negative economic impact,“ Brooks said.
Documentation required to demonstrate negative economic impacts will be similar to the requirements of the county’s General Assistance Program.
If applicants participate in another state or federal assistance program — such as Medicaid, Public Housing Assistance, SNAP (food stamps) or WIC — that information can be used toward documentation requirements for relief payments, Brooks said.
Brooks said staff will draft documentation requirements and bring them to supervisors for approval.
Supervisors at their Dec. 15 meeting are to define and approve how payments will be disbursed to eligible residents.
On Dec. 21, they plan to focus on setting the program time period and program administration.
Once decisions are finalized, county staff will work on the application, process for intake, method of payment and other details.
The goal is to have the direct assistance program implemented by March 3, 2022.
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