Johnson County will send more than 2,000 stimulus checks worth $1,400 each
More than 2,500 people have applied for a Johnson County program that will send $1,400 checks to low-to-middle income residents.
The application deadline for the Direct Assistance Program ended Friday afternoon. Not everyone who applied will receive a check. Program eligibility requirements include proof of income and residency.
A total of 2,596 people have requested stimulus payments from the county, which said the checks would be distributed in early July.
Donna Brooks, grants coordinator for Johnson County, told the Press-Citizen that this program has been “all-consuming” for the county, but she’s confident many people will benefit from what she called one of the most ambitious plans for a local. jurisdiction to spend American Rescue Plan Act money. Johnson County received $29.3 million in federal funds, and Brooks believes its stimulus plan is unique in Iowa.
“We hope that this program will bring the benefits that we had anticipated, namely the revival and stimulation of the local economy as well as the stabilization of households,” she said. “The community need was there, and it was a worthwhile investment of ARPA resources.”
Brooks said between 2,300 and 2,400 people will eventually receive a check. First will come a period of about two weeks to give people the opportunity to correct errors made on their application.
“It’s possible that several hundred applicants won’t be eligible, and we’ll have more funds than we actually have applicants,” Brooks said.
If that happens, she said the remaining funds would likely be sent back to Iowa City and Coralville. She said she is confident that all of Johnson County’s $2 million set aside for the stimulus package will be used.
Iowa City contributed $1.5 million to the program while Coralville voted Tuesday to donate an additional $30,000.
Brooks does not have an exact total of the number of checks that will be sent for two reasons: the administrative costs of the program are not yet known and some of the applicants may be deemed ineligible, which would reduce the total amount.
If more people who applied are eligible than there are checks in the program, a lottery system will be triggered to select those who receive direct payment.
The Press-Citizen previously reported that around 2,500 people would be eligible for these payments, which would use up the $3.5 million allocated. This does not take into account the administrative costs that the county will assess, staff time and envelopes needed to send the checks.
The 2,596 applicants will be informed at the same time whether they have been deemed eligible or ineligible. Those found ineligible will have the opportunity to correct applications, which Brooks said should be completed between June 10 and June 17.
Brooks said an application could be deemed ineligible for several reasons, such as attaching the wrong document to verify income or residency, or if the information in the application does not match the documentation.
Brooks said applicants can expect to receive their checks in late June or early July.
Brooks said the original May 23 deadline for the direct assistance program was extended to May 27 because the county received nearly 500 new applications over the May 21-22 weekend.
“It got such an extreme push over the weekend and there were literally hundreds of residents who were eligible based on what they were reporting by phone and email … and so we took the good faith decision to extend the application,” she said. “We are truly grateful that we decided to extend it for an additional five days. We reached a large number of residents who were eligible and needed support.”
Campaigners fear the scheme is not helping enough people and point to barriers to application
Members of the Iowa City Catholic Worker House and Escucha Mi Voz, an activist organization that formed to create a stimulus package tailored to “excluded workers,” worry the county hasn’t reached everyone who would have potentially applied.
Ninoska Campos and Miriam Alarcón Avila, two organizers of Escucha Mi Voz, spoke to Press-Citizen after the deadline ended on Friday. Alarcón Avila performed for Campos, who said she was very happy that more than 2,500 people had the opportunity to obtain direct payment.
“Escucha Mi Voz has helped over 600 people complete applications and over 400 people were unable to apply because they were unable to comply with all of the documents required by Johnson County,” a- she declared. “We are happy that the money is finally coming. We have been waiting too long, but we can wait a little longer.”
Many of the people that Escucha Mi Viz and the Catholic Worker House have advocated for are undocumented immigrants and other “excluded workers” who have not received any of the federal stimulus checks or unemployment benefits only from other U.S. citizens received at the start of the COVID -19 pandemic. That includes Campos and many others who have filled the boardrooms of Johnson County government meetings over the past year.
Campos said she applied as soon as the process opened in April, speculating she might be the first. She said she believed she had provided the correct documents to be considered eligible, but was worried about many other people her organization had helped.
Campos said none of the contestants want the outcome to be decided by a lottery, where randomly selected contestants will receive a check and others who are eligible may be left out.
Campos and Alarcón Avila pointed out that many applicants are either independent contractors or have worked “under the table” for employers who refused to sign documents proving Johnson County income, leaving them ineligible for the program.
“There are people who, when they come (to the United States), have lost a lot of documents during their travels, even birth certificates,” said Alarcón Avila.
They said some people also had problems proving residency, they lived together in the same household, but the documents are only under one person’s name. They said the Johnson County Community ID Program ended up helping many people prove residency.
Campos and Alarcón Avila said they are asking Johnson County to add an additional $2 million to the program, extend the program’s deadline and reduce restrictions so the 400-person Escucha Mi Voz cannot help and that many others can apply.
Campos said people also had issues with technology beyond just email, including not having access to the technology needed to take pictures of documentation and a computer to do the application. According to Brooks, this is something the county also experienced throughout the bidding process.
“We didn’t anticipate the number of hurdles people would face with email addresses or online application portals,” Brooks said.
Brooks said there were a surprising number of people who didn’t have an email address and were hesitant to create one to apply. She said some applicants also expressed guilt and reluctance to apply because they thought they would take away the opportunity from others who may need an additional $1,400 direct payment.
“It was kind of an interesting thing that we hadn’t anticipated,” she said. “Honestly, I thought we would hit a lot of low-wage workers, but we haven’t seen as many as we thought.”
Brooks said the county ended up helping a large number of homeless Johnson County residents. She said that while $1,400 won’t help solve homelessness, it can provide resources to help people get down payments on apartments, look for other resources, or at least move on. a few more months.
George Shillcock is Press-Citizen’s local government and development reporter covering Iowa City and Johnson County. He can be reached at (515) 350-6307, [email protected] and on Twitter @ShillcockGeorge