Over the last several months, I have listened to several presentations from the Excluded Worker Fund coalition. I watched the presentation they gave to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission over Zoom. I attended in-person their listening session for the City Manager at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church (our family’s home Parish). I’ve read media coverage several times over. The group presented to the Iowa City Human Rights Commission, of which I am vice-chair, last night. I heard many of the same stories from local residents that I heard before, but they were no less impactful or brave. I was again moved to tears. There are people, human beings with families, that are struggling and have not been part of the payments and benefits given to most Iowa City residents through federal programs and pandemic stimulus funds. They work hard and contribute to our community. I can’t thank them enough for their willingness to come forward and represent countless others in similar circumstances. We have an opportunity to help them in a meaningful way.
Knowing that they were on the agenda for our meeting, I drafted a statement in advance to be considered by the Commission. With a small edit (which references a pilot program that was proposed for the first time tonight), it was adopted. It is copied below. I’m thankful to my fellow commissioners for their support of my words. I have been proud to be a lead author of the Commission’s Statement on Black Lives Matter and to help other commissioners and city council members with expressing their thoughts. I will continue to use my ability to express my thoughts in writing and advocate for issues and people that deserve attention.
The Iowa City Human Rights Commission recognizes the hardships to Iowa City residents caused by the COVID pandemic. Some of the most impacted have been ineligible or otherwise unable to access federal benefits, relief programs and stimulus payments available to others. We would urge the Iowa City Council to consider allocating American Rescue Act funds as direct payments and other assistance to these residents, such as the $8M pilot program promoted by the Excluded Worker Fund coalition, in conjunction with Johnson County.
Further, given the urgency of the situation many of these residents are in, we would support the city council directing some portion of the funds to this cause immediately while input is gathered and considered on the use of the funds in total. This would not prohibit further use of the funds for the same purposes once all other options are considered.