11/18/21, 11:00 AM

Johnson County Creates $2 Million Excluded Workers Fund with American Rescue Plan Money

$2 million in “payments to workers who were ineligible for previous relief programs” could set a precedent nationwide for how local governments respond to the pandemic

The Johnson County, Iowa Board of Supervisors has approved a $2 million investment of American Rescue Plan money on an innovative Excluded Workers Fund for “payments to workers who were ineligible for previous relief programs” such as unemployment insurance or stimulus checks.

The action by Johnson County today is the result of a hard-fought organizing campaign led by immigrant workers and previously incarcerated people.

“We won a $2 million Excluded Workers Fund because we organized and made our voices heard - but we can’t wait until March to receive relief, we need the money now,” said Ninoska Campos, an excluded immigrant worker and campaign leader.

“Two million dollars is only a small payback for the hard work and dangerous risks excluded workers took during the pandemic, but it’s a start, a first step towards leveling the playing field,” said Barb Stanerson, a hospital worker, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member, and SEIU UIHC union president.

Johnson County staff said they plan to begin distributing the direct aid early next year.

On November 16, the city of Iowa City committed an additional $1 million to $1.5 million to an Excluded Workers Fund if Johnson County spends down its funding.

The two million dollar American Rescue Plan allocation for excluded workers comes after more than eight months of organizing and agitation by directly impacted immigrant workers, previously incarcerated people, and their allies in the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition - a network of 17 unions, churches, community organizations, and racial justice groups.

Johnson County today also approved an additional $1.8 million to expand the county’s General Assistance Program. The county’s investment in direct cash payments to households will total $3.8 million. The county invested millions more in other coalition priorities such as affordable housing, childcare, public transportation, and emerging nonprofits.

The Fund Excluded Workers Coalition says it will continue to monitor and weigh-in on the county’s distribution plan for the Excluded Workers Fund.

“Families are hurting now. Johnson County and Iowa City need to cut the red tape and deliver immediate relief directly into the hands of the excluded workers who were left behind,” Campos said.

The 17-group Fund Excluded Workers Coalition includes Iowa City Catholic Worker House, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, SEIU Local 199, AFSCME 12, Iowa City Ad-Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Iowa Freedom Riders, LULAC 308, LULAC Statewide Council, Great Plains Action Society, Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing (EXPO) Iowa, Iowa Student Action, Corridor Community Action Network, Iowa City Mutual Aid Collective, Iowa City Democratic Socialists of America, Community Transportation Committee, Nissa African Family Services, and Veterans for Peace Iowa City.

Fund Excluded Workers Movement Demands:

$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