ANALYSIS: Already Marginalized Mobile Home Communities of Color on Outskirts of Iowa City Are Main Losers of Direct Assistance Program Lottery
Convoluted cost-sharing scheme between Johnson County and Iowa City prioritized Iowa City core residents over the rest of the county, the opposite of what government leaders said was their goal
Johnson County and Iowa City, Iowa -
An Escucha Mi Voz and Catholic Worker analysis of more than 600 direct assistance program applications submitted by essential and excluded immigrant workers in Johnson County shows that a disproportionate amount of people who lost the controversial and convoluted lottery live in marginalized mobile home communities on the outskirts of Iowa City. For example, Lakeside Mobile Home Park on Riverside Drive.
The findings are significant because county and city leaders claim to support mobile home communities facing rent increases from out-of-state corporations like Havenpark Capital. The stated goals of the Direct Assistance Program were to provide economic assistance to the county and city’s hardest-hit and most marginalized communities. Iowa City's $1.5 million contribution should have freed up more county money to go towards county residents who did not live in Iowa City, but the program had the opposite impact and left many living in those communities excluded once again.
Because of a convoluted cost-sharing agreement between Iowa City and Johnson County, rather than working together to ensure everyone in the county received the help they needed, Iowa City residents living in core neighborhoods ended up being prioritized over every other part of the county, including its most marginalized areas.
Johnson County paid for more Iowa City residents to receive stimulus checks than the city of Iowa City did.
Johnson County paid for more than 500 Iowa City residents to receive a stimulus check even though the city of Iowa City had an excess surplus of funds to spend on those same city residents.
Because so many Iowa City residents received funding from Johnson County, there weren’t enough Iowa City residents leftover to spend the total amount of Iowa City’s $1.5 million commitment, resulting in a refund of close to three-quarters of a million dollars back to the city even as hundreds of people were left behind.
The result? 319 county residents living in the most marginalized neighborhoods and mobile home communities on the outskirts of Iowa City - technically unincorporated Johnson County - as well as other under-served neighborhoods in Coralville, North Liberty, Tiffin, and elsewhere, disproportionately lost the direct assistance lottery.
“This isn’t right, why am I being discriminated against just because of where I live?” said Nancy Colindres, an excluded worker and resident of Sunset Village Mobile Home Park. Sunset Village is on the eastside of Scott Boulevard and has a post office address in Iowa City. Nancy lost the direct assistance program lottery.
“If the city of Iowa City got so much money back, then they should use it to fund excluded workers like they said they would,” Colindres said.
“I don’t understand why I and 300 others lost the lottery if Iowa City has so much money left over,” said Cristian Pinto Garcia, an immigrant worker and resident of Modern Manor Mobile Home Park. Cristian has an Iowa City address but technically lives in unincorporated Johnson County.
Cristian applied for the direct assistance program but lost the lottery. "They should use that leftover money to give all of us a stimulus check like they promised."
“They need to go back to the pool and spend it all,” said Sherri Erkel, an Iowa City resident, Catholic Worker, and St. Patrick Church parishioner.
1,919 residents were awarded a $1,400 stimulus check, accounting for only $2,686,600 of the $3.5 million originally allocated to the direct assistance program. Less administrative fees, the remaining balance of hundreds of thousands of dollars was refunded to the city of Iowa City even as hundreds of eligible city and county residents were denied a potentially life-saving stimulus check.
Escucha Mi Voz members and Iowa City Catholic Workers say a simple renegotiation of the city and county contract so that both pots of money could be spent simultaneously - rather than Johnson County having to spend all of its $2 million first - would fix the problem and allow every county resident eligible for the program to receive a check without disenfranchising a single eligible applicant.