The Johnson County Social Services Department will expand its capacity to help those in the community who are most in-need by hiring an additional General Assistance Specialist. The position is a result of Johnson County’s investment of funds received from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Johnson County’s General Assistance Program (GA) provides short-term help to Johnson County residents in extreme financial crisis and those most generally at risk of homelessness. GA offers a safety net for those who are often ineligible for other governmental programs and promotes community strength by encouraging individual stability and self-sufficiency. Financial assistance is available for rent, utilities, food and provisions, transportation, prescriptions, pet food, and burial or cremation expenses.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson County expanded the General Assistance guidelines beginning on Aug. 1, 2021, to increase eligibility to serve a larger number of households in need of urgent financial assistance.
The changes include:
- Increasing income eligibility from 130% to 200% of Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG);
- Increasing months of assistance for households over 50% FPG from one time in a 12-month period to up to three times in a 12-month period;
- Expanding eligibility for recipients of other state and federal benefit programs who were previously excluded, including those receiving Family Investment Program (FIP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and unemployment;
- Expanding eligibility regardless of immigration status;
- Increasing the maximum monthly assistance amount by $150;
- Providing pet food and gas vouchers.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Assistance Program served approximately 70 households per month. Since Johnson County’s expansion of the GA guidelines, the number of households assisted on a monthly basis has nearly doubled, to 130.
There are currently two full-time staff serving all of Johnson County. Due to the increased demand, additional staff is needed to provide assistance to as many Johnson County residents as possible.
Johnson County’s investment for the new position will allow the Social Services Department to serve even more households, and continue to improve the well-being of all residents.
More information about the General Assistance Program is available at https://www.johnsoncountyiowa.gov/social-services/general-assistance-program.
Johnson County is committed to utilizing ARPA to enhance investments in public services and maximize the impacts of our local fiscal recovery allocation. The County's ARPA Leadership Team has been working since February 2021 to research and discuss the many aspects of this funding. Johnson County solicited public input from May to October 2021 using a series of online surveys and tools as well as six in-person public input sessions that were held throughout the County.
More information about ARPA and how it impacts Johnson County is available at https://www.johnsoncountyiowa.gov/arpa.