West Liberty approves relief funds for immigrant workers who didn’t receive COVID-19 stimulus checks | Muscatine

WEST LIBERTY — It may not have been all they wanted, but members Escucha Mi Voz (Hear my Voice) applauded when the West Liberty City Council unanimously approved plans to move forward with a resolution to grant $700 checks to 200 city residents excluded from federal COVID relief funds.

During its regular meeting Tuesday, the only dissent heard was from council members Jose Zacarias and Omar Martinez who hoped to distribute $1,400 checks. They said they will continue to advocate for the larger checks leading up to the resolution’s first reading and vote during the June 21 meeting. The plan will be paid for with $147,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act money the city received. The checks will make up about 30% of the $522,000 the city received. Half the funds had been requested. West Liberty will become the second city in Iowa to set up a direct payment program.

For months, members of Escucha Mi Voz have been asking city and county governments to invest part or all of the money they received from the federal government from ARPA to aid excluded and essential workers — immigrant workers who did not get stimulus who have faced health and economic impacts from the COVID-19 health crisis. So far, Johnson County and Iowa City have invested $3.5 million in a new Direct Assistance program, which has come under fire recently for rejecting applicants because of a lack of funding.

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“What we talked about at the meeting is that – we agreed upon a percentage that would still allow us to raise funds for some of the other things on our list as well,” Dana Dominguez, chair of the finance committee, said. ‘We felt comfortable starting with that and for the second portion we would appeal to the county to help with another payout.”

Mayor Katherine McCullough said the city hopes to ask Muscatine County to chip in for the program. Escucha Mi Voz has visited the Muscatine County Supervisors.

Dominguez said the city would not be able to enact the program administratively. In speaking to representatives from Escucha Mi Voz, she learned the group had administered a program from Johnson County free of charge.

At Tuesday’s meeting, about 30 West Liberty residents marched from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church to attend the meeting at the West Liberty Public Library. In February, a group of about 30 workers held a rally outside the West Liberty City Hall.

“Even though we don’t have much to give it will still make a big impact for those families who did not get anything,” Dominguez said.

McCullough said that the city wants to have enough ARPA funds left to try to accomplish other projects citizens need, such as a mental health and wellness center in the city.

Excluded workers seeking help can contact Fr. Guillermo Trevino or the Catholic Worker House of Iowa City at iowacitycatholicworker.org, emailing [email protected], or calling 515-729-6482.

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