Iowa City nonprofits to expand services with American Rescue Plan Act funds

Using the money, the Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic and the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County will be able to transform their facilities to meet the needs of the community.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

City Council members listen to a speaker during a City Council meeting at City hall on Aug. 8, 2022.

Sydney Libert, News Reporter

The Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic and the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County will soon expand their services through renovations funded with American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

The Iowa City City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend for the two services to receive a subsection of ARPA funds dedicated to increasing legacy nonprofit organizations’ capacity to serve the community. 

Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic will receive $1 million, and Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County will receive $2 million. 

In December 2022, the city launched the Non-Profit Capacity Building Capital Grant Program using $3 million from available ARPA funds, intending to award one to three grants to applicants. 

The city received eight applications from interested agencies, who were then assessed through the program criteria and ARPA guiding principles.

Before awarding the funding, city staff will work with each agency to develop a full proposal, which will be brought back before the council for final approval.

According to the city’s agenda packet, with its $1 million allocation of funding, the Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic will “add a reception area and five new exam rooms for specialty care” while repurposing “the former dental operatory space on the main level to add 2-3 additional clinic rooms” and space for administrative staff. 

The funding will also allow the clinic to “install an ADA-compliant elevator” and make changes to an existing stairwell and its lower-level garage space. 

Councilor Shawn Harmsen expressed his support for funding toward the clinic, noting that expanding the space will allow for more affordable health care for those who may not be insured or able to travel to the city’s larger medical institution. 

“Providing and supporting free medical areas is so important, especially in our society that has a for-profit medical system,” Harmsen said. “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.”

While Iowa City Assistant City Manager Rachel Kilburg said the clinic originally requested a $546,000 award, the review committee decided to increase the funding amount to help meet the clinic’s request to expand its capacity. 

“The clinic reported that there was a three-month waiting list for chronic care and a one year waiting list for dental services,” Kilburg said. “They anticipate that once some temporary pandemic-related expansions to the Medicaid program ends here this spring, that will likely increase that demand.” 

Meanwhile, the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County plans to use the funds to create six classrooms with at least 50 early childhood education and child care slots, classrooms for after-school programming, a computer lab, a multi-purpose space with a kitchen, a library, a food bank, and several private meeting rooms.

Although the exact location of the center has not been determined yet, the proposal provided Towncrest as an example. 

Kilburg acknowledged that the $2 million is less than the center’s request, but she said the review committee changed the awarded amount to allocate the other $1 million to the clinic.

“They originally requested a $3 million award,” Kilburg said. “We ultimately recommended a $2 million award in order to be able to fund two transformational projects and believing that the $2 million seed fund was still significant toward their capital campaign goals.” 

Councilor Andrew Dunn said he expects the city’s investment in the two agencies will pay off in the future for the community. 

“Every dollar that we put into preventative medicine or poverty reduction programs, that’s going to reduce the amount of taxpayer dollars, whether it’s from the state, local federal government, that are spent on emergency care, which is often much more expensive,” Dunn said.

Dunn added that the funding will help lower-income residents by “making it so that already limited income folks don’t have to spend their limited income to survive.”

Councilor Laura Bergus, who reviewed the applications alongside Mayor Pro-Tem Megan Alter, Kilburg, and staff from the city’s Neighborhood and Development Services, said she hopes the city will find more resources to fund more nonprofits in the future.  

“I think this process of ‘dream big and tell us what you could do with one to three million dollars’ really surfaced some amazing ideas,” Bergus said. “It made me really excited and hopeful for the future that our nonprofit agencies are thinking so strategically towards the future.”

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