Johnson County considers recognizing Juneteenth as paid holiday

If approved, Juneteenth will serve as the county’s twelfth paid holiday.


Grace Colton

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors is seen at a public forum for the 2020 fiscal year budget at the Johnson County Administration Building on Wednesday February 27 2019.

Simone Garza, News Reporter

Those who typically work on Juneteenth in Johnson County could see it become a paid holiday in the years moving forward. 

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors discussed adding Juneteenth to the 11 other paid holidays recognized by the county. 

“It’s important what we recognize and what we don’t recognize —it sends a message,” County Human Resources Director Lora Shramek said.

Juneteenth recognizes June 19, 1865, the date when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, were informed that the Civil War had ended and they were free. 

Shramek recommended the paid holiday to begin in full effect for Johnson County in 2022 during a Board of Supervisors work session on Wednesday morning. If the holiday is on a Saturday, it will be observed on Friday. If it is on a Sunday, it will be observed on Monday. 

She recommended extending the holiday benefit to Union and non-bargaining employees. 

She said if cost is a major factor for the county, they could swamp Juneteenth with another holiday already recognized. 

Supervisors Rod Sullivan and Jon Green both said it should be added as a 12th paid holiday. Deputy Auditor Chris Edwards estimated that a holiday costs between $100,000 and $110,000. 

RELATED: Johnson County now named after the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D from UI, Lulu Merle Johnson

President Joe Biden signed a bill into law on June 17 making Juneteenth a federal holiday. As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, Juneteenth was officially observed for the first time in Iowa City’s history this year, and the Board of Supervisors proclaimed June 19, 2021 as Juneteenth Freedom Day in the county.

Board of Supervisors Chairperson Pat Heiden said the consideration to officially recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday would be added to a formal agenda. 

Johnson County COVID-19 updates

Johnson County Community Health Division Manager Sam Jarvis also gave a COVID-19 update during the work session. At this time, cases are persisting to stay in “single digit cases,” Jarvis said. 

The majority of people who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 have not received the vaccine, he added.

The total population of Johnson County is about 60 percent fully vaccinated. Among those 26 and older, at least 80 percent have started or finished vaccination; for 12 and older, about 70 percent have started or finished the vaccination process; and for those between the age of 12 and 17, about 60 percent have started or finished the vaccination process, Jarvis said. 

Johnson County currently leads the state in vaccination rates, he reported. 

Jarvis said contract tracers have been trained to address vaccine hesitancy and engage in conversations with people who chose not to be vaccinated yet. 

“We know there’s certainly others who are in this wait and see period,” he said. “We’ll continue to meet everyone with an open mind and provide information so we can convince them otherwise.”