🚰 Money's on the tab if you know to ask
Assistance is available in Coralville for people's water bills. But despite the city administering both assistance and water, they aren't crediting eligible accounts.
February 23, 2021 | Letter. No. 36
Depending on where you lived, an unpaid water bill might have resulted in shutoff or nothing at all.
Back in March 2020, many municipalities deferred their late fees and shut-offs for delinquent water bills. But following the summer, Coralville kicked off its fees and shut-offs anticipating a loss in revenue.
On Monday, I had a story go up about a family of four (soon to be 5) that have turned to borrowing money from family and going into debt to cover the cost of living in the city.
A 2020 survey from the Affordable Housing Coalition found that 15% of its respondents were behind on utility bills between March and June of that year and had used contributions from family or friends to cover their costs; 33% had relied on those networks to cover rent or mortgage; and those behind on payments were more than twice as likely to lean on family and friends to meet their obligations.
Federal money is incoming to help residents pay these bills, but the money being available doesn’t meant the money will be used. Is this pass-through is coming to cities like Coralville. But rather than that money going straight to outstanding bills on the city’s records, residents who think they are eligible must contact the city to get their bill taken care of.
This assistance is significant: capable of funding up to 12 months of rent and utility payments between March 13, 2020, until Sept. 30, 2021 — 12 months. That could be a serious leg-up for a household in the red.
If they know it’s there.
Zachary Oren Smith
(If you tune in to KRUI 89.7, the UI station, you’ve probably heard—maybe overheard—the wistful overtures of Nick Drake. While overplayed in this town, Drake’s somber rub of a voice is a balm on these snowmelt days.)
🚔 Defund the police? Defund cities. - The Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature is pushing forward a bill to deny all state funding to cities and counties that reduce their police budgets.
💸 Republicans to cut unemployment benefits - In the case of a layoff, Iowans benefit from unemployment benefits, helping workers stay above the water in the short term. But Legislative Republicans feel last year’s drain on the unemployment trust fund demands action. They’ve proposed a bill requiring workers to wait a week after a lay off before being eligible for unemployment benefits, reducing the benefit amount paid to workers with multiple dependents and cutting worker benefits by 13 weeks in the case of business closure, The Gazette reported. If passed, the bill wouldn’t go into effect until 2022.
🗳️ Cutting early voting period - Compared to its peers, Iowa has enjoyed a fairly progressive early voting policy. But the Iowa Legislature is taking a scalpel to it: reducing the early voting period by 9 days from 29 days to 20. Further, it bars county auditors from mailing absentee ballot requests without a voter requesting one and from setting up satellite voting sites unless petitioned, creating criminal charges for county auditors who disobey state rules. (They’re watching you, Travis.)
🏞️ Not near my park - The public showed out during an Iowa City P&Z meeting blocking a housing project adjacent to Hickory Hill Park. The land, owned by ACT, Inc., south of Scott Boulevard and West of 1st Avenue. Little Village reported Axiom Consultants’ proposal features 43 detached single-family residential homes and 10 detached single-family condominium dwelling units over 39.37 acres. The remaining 9.38 acres would be developed with a senior living facility, which will contain approximately 135 bedrooms for its residents.
🚜 Vilsack back in the saddle - Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack will reprise his role as U.S. secretary of agriculture. Vilsack occupied the role from 2009 to 2017. This write-up from the Register features U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and his reservations about Vilsack’s “corporate ties.”
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Zachary Oren Smith writes about government, growth and development for the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 319 -339-7354 or on Twitter via @Zacharyos.