Johnson County allocates additional funds to SLFRF-backed pilot programs
Three county programs developed with federal Coronavirus funds received an additional boost in funding to help qualified community members with affordable housing, child care licensing and rental assistance.
On Thursday, Jan. 18, the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners approved $950,000 in allocations from the interest accrued on the county’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. The United States Department of the Treasury, directed by the U.S. Congress, distributed these funds to cities, counties and other governmental bodies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds were intended to offset economic losses from the pandemic and to invest in community infrastructure.
“These federal dollars have allowed our organization to pilot new and innovative ways to support those in our community who can benefit from some additional assistance,” said BOCC Chairman Mike Kelly. “At the same time we have been good stewards of these resources, ensuring they are being used strategically to improve the quality of life for our constituents.”
The BOCC authorized the following:
- $200,000 to the Landlord Housing Voucher Incentive Program. The pilot program awards landlords an incentive equal to twice the monthly rent of their property for accepting the Housing Choice Vouchers formerly known as Section 8. The program’s initial allocation of $200,000 in June 2023 led to 23 new landlords accepting vouchers and 216 people obtaining housing, including 121 children. The pilot program ended on Nov. 15, 2023, and this second round of funding will continue the program until funds are exhausted.
- $250,000 for childcare licensing fees, which covers the cost of local licensing requirements for both new and renewing childcare facilities/providers in Johnson County. Since SLFRF funding, the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment reports a 33% increase in the number of new and pending licenses for childcare centers compared to before funding (12 to 16) and a 50% increase in home-based childcare (40 to 60).
- $500,000 to create a Rental Assistance Program as Phase 2 of the Eviction Mediation Program. This pilot program initially received $12,000 and then an additional $134,000 for a total of $146,000 in SLFRF allocations. Those funds paid mediators who met with the landlord and tenant when eviction was looming. The results of that program have led to 95 mediations with an 84% success rate. The new funds would be used to incentivize landlords to drop the tenants’ accumulated fees in exchange for a lump-sum payment paid from the fund to the landlord for past-due rent. With a maximum payout of $3,500 per case, the Johnson County District Court estimates it can help around 140 to 200 tenants.
Johnson County received just over $117 million in SLFRF, and the county has previously allocated the money to benefit the board’s goals of supporting the workforce, tackling food and housing insecurity, strengthening community safety, helping tourism recovery and investing in water and wastewater infrastructure.
Becky Jones, deputy director of financial management and administration, explained to the board during its Jan. 11 meeting that interest on SLFRF was higher than originally projected because both cash flow within the fund and interest rates paid were higher than expected.
“The interest is an unexpected bonus – a cherry on the top,” said Chairman Kelly. “Some excellent pilot programs can be continued and enhanced because of our prudent fiscal responsibility.”