1/27/22, 12:03 PM

Entire Direct Assistance Program Was Built Around Excluded Workers, County Records Show 

“Payments to workers who were ineligible for previous relief programs” was the official project description included in writing at every ARPA work session or formal meeting from August 4, 2021 - January 2022

Target population, budget, award amounts, and reporting compliance were all based on excluded workers, Oct 13 meeting transcript proves

Iowa City, Iowa –

Video recordings and other official Johnson County documents show that the new Direct Assistance Program - from its target demographic, to its budget, award amounts, and compliance with U.S. Treasury rules - was built on and based around excluded workers.

“The Board of Supervisors intended specifically that this fund would go to people who did not receive previous stimulus checks, and there I’m referring to the final matrix that county staff produced in November, and particularly to the October 13 meeting work session,” Iowa City methodist Sean McRoberts said today during public comment of the supervisors formal meeting.

A video recording of the October 13 work session includes an update from ARPA Leadership Team member and County Grants Coordinator Donna Brooks, who said:

“Moving forward to Expenditure Category 2.3 Negative Economic Impacts: Cash Transfers.

So this is payments to workers who were ineligible for previous relief programs and I’d like to provide some context to this. 

The ARPA leadership team has been working on this very subject since February, really trying to figure out how to handle and get these funds out as quickly as possible. 

A cash transfer program may focus on who faced disproportionate harms by the pandemic. 

Cash transfers must be reasonably proportional to the negative impact they are meant to address. Cash transfers grossly in excess may not be considered. In particular when considering the appropriate size of permissible cash transfers, local governments may consider and take guidance from the per person amounts previously provided by the federal government.

Therefore we are directed or advised by the U.S. Treasury to look at those stimulus payments that were provided previously by the U.S. Treasury. Those excluded from those previous payments, we can presume that it is eligible to pay them what was deemed eligible during prior U.S. Treasury funding, which is the stimulus payments.  

The $2 million is not final, it is an estimate based on some of the things we’ve heard. That $2 million estimate was in response to the U.S. Treasury guidance for what would be permissible based on previous stimulus payments and what we have been informed about by organizations and coalitions in the community of those Johnson County residents that were excluded. That is the rationale for the budget you see today.

Chair Pat Heiden: So we have majority support and we will move this forward.

News reports from August 21 and October 14 refer to the program as direct payments to excluded workers and include county records and comments from Supervisor and last year's chair Pat Heiden confirming the description.

The project “payments to workers who were ineligible for previous relief programs” was first added to the ARPA Projects under consideration on August 4, 2021. It was the official project description from August 4 until January 2022.

On December, supervisors and county staff added additional economic impacts to the eligibility criteria to avoid high-income earners, minors, or college students from unintentionally being defined as excluded workers.

"We don't want to make our pool too big because our program is either going to run out of money if you do first come first serve or you're going to do a lottery and then there's going to be a lot of unhappy people," Special Projects Director Ray Forsyth said on December 8.

As late as a January 19, 2022 work session, Supervisor Lisa Green Douglas said "the matrix said excluded workers." Special Projects Director Ray Forsyth responded, "that is how the program initiated."

The Direct Assistance Program for “payments to workers who were ineligible for previous relief programs” was not the only ARPA program Johnson County developed to address the negative economic impact to households.

From eviction prevention, to General Assistance expansion, to more nonprofit support, the Direct Assistance Program was only one of many projects debated and developed to address the negative economic impact of the pandemic, all with their own focus area, budget, and targeted population.

"If you're one of those people bothered by the word lottery, how about we substitute it with 'random electronic selection system'," Supervisor Lisa Green Douglas said during the supervisors' January 27 Formal Meeting.