The workers who spoke at the West Liberty city council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 4 were left out of federal pandemic relief funding. The Excluded Worker Fund coalition, Escucha Mi Voz, has asked city councils across Iowa to be allocated some funds from the American Rescue Plan. Photo by Tar Macias / Hola Iowa
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West Liberty Ministerial Association Treasurer Rev. Guillermo Trevino, Jr. responds to the city staff’s statement on Excluded Worker Fund

West Liberty, Iowa – Rev. Guillermo Trevino, Jr. of Saint Joseph Catholic Church in West Liberty responded to a statement posted Friday by the City of West Liberty social media account attempting to throw cold water on a local Excluded Workers Fund paid for with American Rescue Plan Act money.

“Wearing my hat as treasurer of the Ministerial Association, this is what we already do, help people. I don’t understand why an Excluded Workers Fund would be any different. I’ve offered to help the city with this.”

West Liberty Mayor Katherine McCullough resigned Tuesday after publicly stating on September 14 that city staff kept her in the dark on major decisions. In June, the city council unanimously agreed to create an Excluded Workers Fund, but the initiative hasn’t moved forward due to intense opposition by business interests and city bureaucrats behind the scenes.

The statements posted Friday by the City of West Liberty social media account authoritatively used the term city staff seven times to make its case. City councilors were not consulted about the statement prior to it being posted.

West Liberty city councilors were also informed Friday that city Finance Committee meetings have been postponed indefinitely until city staff “hear back from auditors”, fueling speculation that some factions of the city government are determined to take the fate of the city’s $522,000 ARPA allotment off the table for public debate and democratic decision-making.

West Liberty has been gridlocked all year in a battle between reform advocates and entrenched interests around urgent issues like pandemic relief for excluded workers and the future of the city’s fire department. 

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A group of more than 30 immigrant workers attended last Tuesday night’s meeting and spoke during public comment to demand pandemic relief for workers who did not receive a federal stimulus check in 2020 or 2021.

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At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Escucha Mi Voz West Liberty members also proposed spending the $522,000 American Rescue Plan investment on across-the-board utility relief of $500 for all 1,150 West Liberty households, relief that would benefit the entire community. 

Immigrant West Liberty residents in recent months have approached the city council with copies of their skyrocketing utility bills in their hands to press their point for pandemic and utility relief.

“There is something going on in the city that is not right,” West Liberty resident Maria Diaz said during public comment. “We cannot afford $500 light bills every month. We need answers from you guys, not lies.”

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Former Mayor McCullough’s last action in office was to strip former Mayor ProTem Dana Dominguez of the second-in-command position she had held for the last 10 months, and award it to current Mayor ProTem Cara McFerren due to McFerren’s “experience” in city government. 

Councilor Dominguez has been an outspoken supporter of the city’s excluded immigrant community.

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