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Letter to the editor: Johnson County’s excluded workers deserved better


The Fund Excluded Workers Coalition occupies a American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) public input session held by Johnson County’s ARPA leadership team on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Coralville, Iowa. For months, FEWC has been petitioning both the Iowa City Council and the Johnson County Board of Supervisors to provide relief to excluded and essential workers. — Adria Carpenter/Little Village

By Tom Carsner, Iowa City

All Johnson County residents suffered losses from the pandemic, but not all residents were helped by government stabilization or enhanced unemployment checks. Three Johnson County Supervisors cemented this inequality and sidetracked the discussion about ARPA payments by raising irrelevant “what-about” questions and even questioning whether the county could do such a program after twice being given a path by Supervisor Jon Green. Their platitudes of “equal treatment” intentionally avoided the best question: “Who has, and, more importantly, who has not, been helped by government checks?”

When determining the fairness of a race, it is crucial to consider how contestants were placed at the starting line. When the Supervisors began considering the ARPA payments, many county residents began $3,200+ enhanced unemployment ahead of $0 for excluded workers. That is not an equal starting line, but three Supervisors ignored that.

These residents — tax-paying, but temporary or undocumented or underdocumented workers, and workers paid with cash, among others — are ineligible for the stabilization checks or enhanced unemployment. This group has received $0.00. Iowa’s economy, especially meatpacking, agriculture, manufacturing, construction and retail, would collapse in a few weeks without the excluded workers.

“We all do better when we all do better,” is the standard that should guide us when distributing the $3.5 million in Johnson County and Iowa City ARPA funds. It is not a matter of giving MORE to those who already have been helped. It is a matter of giving some to those who have received ZERO. All of Johnson County does better when more of our residents have increased financial security.

Johnson County could have brought a small degree of equity and appreciative acknowledgment to the excluded workers by giving them $1,400 checks. Two Supervisors, Jon Green and Rod Sullivan, chose to include them. Three others let that opportunity to mend income inequality pass. We are all the lesser for it.


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