Johnson County will hold its final public input session on how to spend ARPA funds Wednesday evening

ARPA Public Input Session

Johnson County Health and Human Services Building, Room 203 B/C, on Wednesday, Oct. 27, from 6 to 8 pm.

The Fund Excluded Workers Coalition occupys a ARPA public input session held by Johnson County’s ARPA leadership team on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Coralville, Iowa. — Adria Carpenter/Little Village

At 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Johnson County will hold its final public input session on how to use the $29.3 million in federal funds the county has been allocated through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which President Biden signed into law in March. Five previous sessions have been held at various locations around the county. The most recent was in Lone Tree on Oct. 12, to solicit opinions from residents of rural southern Johnson County.

The sessions in rural areas of the county, Tiffin in the north and Lone Tree in the south, were sparsely attended, in sharp contrast to the input sessions held in Iowa City and Coralville. Those sessions have attracted numerous participants. Most of the speakers during public comments periods at those meetings were members or supporters of the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition.

The coalition is demanding the county government and Johnson County city governments direct $54 million in ARPA — the approximate total that county and city governments in Johnson County will receive — to residents who did not receive money from the federal government through the CARES Act or the stimulus payments that were issued during the pandemic.

The coalition has presented six demands to Johnson County and city governments regarding ARPA funds.

$20 million in direct cash assistance for up to 6,000 excluded workers, undocumented immigrants, previously incarcerated people, cash economy workers, and their families.

$20 million in hazard pay bonuses of $1,600 each for up to 12,000 low-wage, public-sector, and essential workers in Johnson County who make less than $15 an hour.

$5 million to purchase 54 new units of affordable and cooperative housing for immigrants, refugees, and previously incarcerated people.

$3 million to expand public transit to late-nights and Sundays.

$3 million for agrarian reform, to return stolen land back to Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color.

$3 million to grassroots, BIPOC-led nonprofits and faith institutions, with annual budgets less than $250,000 and demonstrable bases of community support, who do not primarily rely on government funding.

During its Oct. 13 work session, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors began the process of narrowing the list of possible uses of the county’s ARPA. One proposal supervisors endorsed was allocating $2 million for direct payments to residents who were ineligible for previous relief programs and stimulus payments.

Other proposals for the use of ARPA funds that were approved include an eviction diversion program; an affordable child care program; a new HVAC system for county buildings, funding a GPS monitoring program to be run by the sheriff’s department to track some people convicted of domestic violence or sexual assault; and increasing funding for the county’s General Assistance Program to support increases both in the amount of benefits it provides and its eligibility requirements.

On Wednesday morning, the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition put out a written statement saying, “Two million dollars is little for what the county has in its hands to be able to help all the people.”

“We are fighting for more than $2 million and to ensure that it goes directly to the excluded workers themselves, because other institutions could hinder people from receiving this help.”

In its statement, the coalition said it will hold a rally outside the Johnson County Administration Building before the input session.

Wednesday’s public input session will be held in Room 203 B/C of the Johnson County Health and Human Services Building, 855 S Dubuque St. The session is scheduled to last two hours and begins at 6 p.m. There will be a Zoom option for those unable to attend in person.

Instructions for accessing the meeting via Zoom and the meeting’s agenda are available on the county’s ARPA page by clicking on Public Input Session and scrolling down to Oct. 27.

With additional reporting by Adria Carpenter

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