Johnson County considers increase to General Assistance Program

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 7/22/21

A proposed increase to Johnson County’s General Assistance Program would provide recipients with up to $150 in additional monthly funds.

The proposal was presented to the Johnson County …

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Johnson County considers increase to General Assistance Program

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A proposed increase to Johnson County’s General Assistance Program would provide recipients with up to $150 in additional monthly funds.

The proposal was presented to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors at its work session on July 14.

The proposal, which is expected to be on the board’s formal agenda on July 22, would also increase eligibility in addition to monthly or one-time assistance funds. Eighty-six percent of recipients have reported they would have lost their housing without the general assistance funds.

Currently, needy Johnson County residents may receive up to three months of assistance in a 12-month period if they are 50% or below federal poverty guidelines. One-time assistance is also available within a 12-month period for those 130% below federal poverty guidelines. Assistance is also available for those applying for SSI disability and also burial assistance.

Federal poverty guidelines in 2021 range from $12,880 for one person to $26,500 for a household for four or more people, in annual numbers. Fifty percent would be half that.

Lynette Jacoby, social services director, proposed to the board that eligibility be increased to 130% of federal poverty guidelines for both short-term and one-time assistance applicants, and from 50% to 100% of the poverty guidelines for the interim assistance reimbursement program. Those receiving federal and state benefits, including Social Security and unemployment, would also be eligible to receive funds.

“This would be something addressing a need,” supervisor Lisa Green-Douglass said about the pro-posed eligibility increase. “It’s been an ongoing need.”

The proposal includes additional assistance of $150 per month, increasing the short-term assistance from a range of $550-700 to $700-850. Gas and pet food vouchers would be eligible.

At its formal session July 15, the board approved adding Juneteenth as a 12th holiday for Johnson County employees. Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in 1865, was made a federal holiday this year. Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19, but because that day is a Sunday in 2022, Johnson County employees will get Monday, June 20 off.

The board also heard from county employees at both of its meetings last week regarding the pay of employees who are transferring from a union-based administrative unit to a non-bargaining pay structure.

The 66 employees received a 1% cost-of-living increase on July 1 and are eligible for annual merit increases of up to 3%, but those with more than five years of service are no longer eligible for step increases. The board is considering a number of proposals to replace the step system ranging from an increase of 5 cents to 15 cents an hour for each year of service.

A dime increase was recommended by human resources director Lora Shramek, but a 15 cent in-crease was suggested by a number of employees in person and through emails. No vote or action was taken by the board.

“Fair and equitable wages are the most important thing that I think that we deal with every day,” said Pat Heiden, supervisor chair. “We hear you.”

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