Iowa City will cover 319 people excluded from the Direct Assistance Program

Tuesday night, Iowa City voted to pick up the check for 319 workers excluded from a local direct assistance program. With these applications funded, all of the 2,238 eligible program applicants will receive a $1,400 check.

“This is a positive. We are doing something that really others have not done in this state for people who work for all of us,” said Councilmember Janice Weiner. “I would really like that to be the takeaway despite the difficulties of these last few weeks.”

The Johnson County Direct Assistance Program is an American Rescue Plan Act-funded collaboration between local entities interested in putting dollars directly in the hands of low-income Iowans – the only such program in the state. Johnson County put in $2 million, Iowa City $1.5 million and Coralville $27,000.

Before it began, the Direct Assistance Program could have sent a check to nearly 2,500 eligible applicants. But there were only 2,238 applicants eligible for checks – well below the program’s limit. However, 319 low-income people who cleared the eligibility requirements for the program were left out because the county ran out of money and Iowa City Council was unwilling to use the unspent money Iowa City allocated to the program.

Last week, the Johnson County Supervisors rejected the Iowa City City Council’s offer to split the nearly $500,000 bill 50-50.

With their vote Tuesday night, Iowa City will take the money necessary to fund an additional 319 applicants in Iowa City and compensate Johnson County for funding the 319 excluded residents.

While the council was unanimously in favor of getting the 319 checks funded immediately, Mayor Bruce Teague did so begrudgingly, maintaining that the 319 were the county’s to pay for.

“We’re going to backfill Iowa City residents who were rightfully paid by the county. 319 residents that were rightfully paid for by the county,” Teague said. He went on to mention that any of the 11 jurisdictions of Johnson County could have participated, but only the county, Iowa City and Coralville participated.

“Thanks to Coralville for their $30,000. This is not to minimize that contribution, but their involvement was 1 percent,” he said.

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