Iowa City City Council to vote on $1.5 million transfer to Johnson County’s Direct Assistance Fund

The Iowa City City Council will move $1.5 million from its American Rescue Plan Act funding to Johnson County’s Direct Assistance Program, pending council and board of supervisor approval. The total offered through the program is $3.5 million.


Braden Ernst

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague speaks at a City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

Cooper Worth, News Reporter

The Iowa City City Council will vote on a transfer of $1.5 million from its American Rescue Plan Act funding to Johnson County’s Direct Assistance Program next week.

The Direct Assistance Program provides one-time financial support to Johnson County residents who faced negative economic impacts as a result of the COVID-19.

The total offered through the program is now $3.5 million after a vote by the supervisors to invest $2 million from the county’s American Rescue Plan funds for COVID-19 relief.

The transfer of funds is set to become official pending approval from the Iowa City City Council at its meeting on April 19, and supervisor approval on April 21.

The supervisors formally approved the program in a 3-2 vote in February. Two supervisors, Rod Sullivan and Jon Green, voted in opposition because the program did not give priority to those who had not received previous pandemic relief.

The Iowa City City Council first announced plans to transfer the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funding to Johnson County’s Direct Assistance Program, through a lottery system, at a January City Council meeting. 

During the supervisors’ work session on Wednesday, Donna Brooks, Johnson County grants coordinator, said through the $1.5 million contribution from Iowa City, the program will now have an additional 1,000 checks going out to residents.

“We’ve worked pretty hard to get this ready, and we feel that [the program] is ready today,” Brooks said.

Controversy regarding the Direct Assistance Program has been prevalent ever since the county first received pandemic relief dollars. Johnson County activists, including the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition, have called for ARPA funds to go strictly to workers who never received federal stimulus payments since April of last year.

In January, protesters from the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition rallied at a Johnson County Board of Supervisors joint entities meeting challenging the lottery system.

The group urged the board to prioritize undocumented immigrants and other people specifically left out of federal pandemic relief, rather than granting the funds at random to a broader group of people who had experienced economic difficulty during the pandemic.

According to rules defined at a December work session, the eligibility for the program goes beyond people ineligible for previous relief programs. To be eligible for the county’s Direct Assistance Program, applicants must show they:

  • Lived in Johnson County on March 1, 2020, and continue to live in Johnson County
  • Are a legal adult or emancipated minor
  • Earn less than $45,000 annually
  • Experienced unemployment, housing insecurity, food insecurity, or exclusion from federal pandemic stimulus payments and expanded pandemic unemployment benefits following the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Residents who participate in state and federal assistance programs like SNAP.