Escucha Mi Voz calls for second round of Johnson County aid probe

Escucha Mi Voz calls for second round of Johnson County aid probe

A group of Congolese residents wants Johnson County to reopen its Direct Aid program.

Johnson County was one of the only 99 counties in the state to take some of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money and put it directly into the pockets of low-income residents most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It gave $1,400 checks to 2,242 residents.

But the advocacy group Escucha Mi Voz claimed the county’s reach to Congolese residents was lacking.

On Monday, Escucha Mi Voz brought 15 Congolese residents to a meeting of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors. Residents asked the board to reopen the Direct Assistance program for a second round of applications. Among them was Perry Makumi, a worker at the Tyson Foods plant in Columbus Junction. He said it was unfair to his community to find out about aid after the check was cut.

“We are working as essential workers in the time of pandemic. We feel like we were left out of the direct assistance program,” Makumi said. “So we’re here to find out if Johnson County can invest more money for the majority of people who are waiting to get their checks.” left for.”

Escucha Mi Voz and sister organizations are working to sign up Iowans for assistance through the Iowa City Catholic Worker Farm and Food Workers Relief Program. According to a press release, it was during this process that they learned that many employees eligible for the Johnson County Direct Assistance program never applied because they did not know about it.

IPR News contacted Johnson County, which confirmed that it did not directly contact all 157,248 county residents. But it served to inform the residents of the Congo. It made applications available in languages ​​that included French and partnered with organizations such as the Center for Worker Justice to help people apply. While only 11 French applications were turned in, many of the 2,000 English applications were submitted by non-native English speakers with the help of interpreters.

The county also worked with Congolese community leaders such as former community president Peter Nkumu.

Nukum, who works for the county’s general assistance program, said, “I think the group that’s claiming today that they didn’t know about it are people who found out about it when they heard that something was going on.” People have got money.” “But I don’t think it’s fair to say that the county didn’t inform people enough.”

In December, the county board of supervisors takes up the budget. It may choose to reallocate the money and fund a direct aid program. But Supervisor Pat Hayden says that would require the county to take money from other programs. They could include an affordable housing project, a gun violence prevention program and a compliance tracking system for domestic abuse parolees. Needs, she said, outnumber resources.

“We had to look at the whole picture, not just this one project,” Hayden said. “And so we had to make tough decisions.”

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