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Johnson County Board of Supervisors continue discussion on how to divide American Rescue Plan funds

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 10:24 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Johnson County Board of Supervisors met Tuesday evening to try and decide how to spend millions from COVID-19 stimulus funding.

Johnson County and Iowa City combined will get about $55 million from the federal coronavirus relief law called the American Rescue Plan.

“We’re being very strategic in the planning and deployment of our funding,” Donna Brooks, grants coordinator for the county, said.

That strategy means the Johnson County Supervisors are taking their time in deciding where these dollars go. Brooks said getting public input is the first step.

“Until Johnson County has received public input, the Board of Supervisors will not presume to understand the community,” Brooks said. “We want to hear the needs of the community from the community.”

Brooks said as the pandemic changes and evolves, the board wants to make sure it can adapt its policies along with it.

“This is an unprecedented amount of funding that has the potential to have long-term impacts on our residents and our businesses,” Brooks said.

Katie Biechler, with the Excluded Workers Fund, said much of this funding should go to people who have been left out so far: undocumented immigrants, previously incarcerated people, cash economy workers, and their families.

“We’re asking for the full $54 million that’s going to be coming into Johnson County and cities that are in Johnson County,” Biechler said.

The Excluded Workers Fund wants to put $20 million toward direct cash assistance for up to 6,000 workers who didn’t get stimulus payments in Johnson County. Then, they want to put the remaining $34 million toward hazard pay bonuses, affordable housing and other social service initiatives.

“We’re also asking for some of that money to go to things like bus services running late night and on Sundays when a lot of low-wage workers still have to work,” Biechler said.

Brooks said the board wants to make clear that they are trying to make the effort to get funds as quickly as possible to those who need it most, but they need to wait until the final public input report is presented on October 27.

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