Rescue plan

Johnson County to Hire General Assistance Program Specialist with American Rescue Plan Act Funds

Johnson County is expanding its Department of Social Services by hiring an additional General Assistance Specialist. The new position is funded by what the county received in the American Rescue Plan Act.

The Johnson County Department of Social Services is hiring a General Assistance Specialist to work with the General Assistance Program as the county sees an increased need for this service.

The new General Assistance Specialist position results from the County’s expansion of General Assistance guidelines on August 1, 2021, to increase eligibility to serve more households in need of assistance. urgent financial.

The General Assistance Program provides short-term assistance to Johnson County residents in dire financial straits who are ineligible for other government programs, according to the program’s website. Financial assistance is available to cover rent, utilities, groceries, transportation and other necessities.

Some of the changes made included increasing income eligibility from 130% to 200% of the US federal poverty guidelines, adding additional months of assistance for households over 50% of the guideline federal poverty reduction from once a year to three times a year, and expanding eligibility independently. immigration status.

Hiring a new general assistance specialist was one of the projects the county chose to invest in with its American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Prior to the new hire, the General Assistance Program had only two full-time specialists working with candidates.

The county is allocating $234,205.20 to the post from fiscal year 2022 to fiscal year 2027, covering salary and benefits.

The new specialist was hired late last month and is expected to start his new role later in March.

The American Rescue Plan Act was a $1.9 trillion relief program to help American communities financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Johnson County, with a population of approximately 150,000, received $29.3 million from this program.

Lynette Jacoby, director of social services for Johnson County, said adding an additional staff member will help serve all residents who receive general assistance and relieve stress from current staff who have been overwhelmed.

“The staff have just worked extremely hard and put time on hold in order to be available to meet the needs of residents,” Jacoby said. “Now we will add a third [staff member]but the workload has doubled, so it’s really necessary.

Jacoby said that before the pandemic, the general assistance program served about 70 households per month, and said that since its expansion, the number of households has nearly doubled to 130.

Before the pandemic, Johnson County’s General Assistance Program provided an average of $33,000 per month to residents. After its expansion, the program had its highest month ever in October 2021, allocating $98,000 to general support users, according to Jacoby.

Johnson County Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglass said it made sense to add an additional staff member as the county increases the number of people eligible for General Assistance.

“The more people that come into the program, the more applications there are to process, so that meant we had to [hire] someone else and let that person help ease the load,” Green-Douglass said.

Green-Douglass said the staff did a great job keeping things going with just two members, but eventually it becomes too much.

“The staff were really working their best, and I have to give it to them,” Green-Douglass said. “They are nice people and very professional, but it’s a lot of work.”

Jacoby said county-led surveys found that 90% of residents receiving general assistance said the program helped them retain their housing.

She said preventing homelessness is a tremendous boost to the well-being of individuals in the household.

“If someone loses their home, their job can be in jeopardy, if they have kids, the disruption in their education and just the general stress of being homeless,” Jacoby said. “So this is a very important program to help provide safety and stable housing for families.”