Iowa Auditor Rob Sand found a way to help fellow Iowans in a time of crisis.
The first-term Democrat state auditor started a program to help unemployed Iowans and Iowa restaurants at the same time. Sand announced earlier this week he would donate a month of his salary to a Coronavirus aid fund he created.
“I just tend to be someone that is always looking for something new to do or some additional way to get something accomplished,” Sand said. “I was thinking about it last weekend and thinking, ‘man, we’re going to have a lot of unemployed people. We’re going to have a lot of restaurants that are going to need help. What could we be doing?'”
It led to the idea of essentially reimbursing unemployed Iowans who go eat at an Iowa restaurant. Sand’s chief of staff, John McCormally, made the suggestion knowing Sand had been thinking about staff in the Auditor’s office as well.
McCormally said unemployed folks would get some kind of confirmation, so they could just be required to send that as proof they are actually unemployed.
“Then it was just a matter of getting the materials put together, opening up a Venmo account and a PayPal account and getting everything put together for people to understand what it is and how it works,” Sand said.
Sand, who is relatively young for an elected official, is technologically savvy enough to get a project like that set up over a weekend, although the PayPal portion of the program isn’t working well right now. Venmo, on the other hand, is running smoothly.
On top of Sand’s month of salary, others have contributed about $10,000.
“Which is pretty incredible,” Sand said. “We know there’s a lot of people in need now and we need them to participate. We want to give this money away.”
Sand runs the program, essentially. It isn’t an official project of the Auditor’s office. He told The Iowa Standard on Friday the program has been tweaked a bit.
“We expanded the program just today,” he said. “We’re now also going to provide and let people buy up to three meals instead of just one. And, we’re also expanding it to include self-employed people. So, anyone who sends us a picture of their business card or their EIN certificate or their Facebook web page, we’ll count them the same way we would count someone sending us their unemployment confirmation email.”
The money, Sand said, sits in the Venmo account. Donations are not tax-deductable as it isn’t an actual organization. He said he would have an independent party audit the accounts later to show people everything is going where it is supposed to. He said 100 percent of donations are intended to be sent out to people in need.
So, if you’re one of those struggling Iowans, go buy a meal, keep the receipt and send a copy of the receipt along with the unemployment email (if you’re unemployed), or a business card if you’re self-employed, and include your Venmo account.
“We’ll just put $20 in their Venmo account just like that,” he said. “Each person can do it up to three times if they want to.”
About a dozen people have had it processed through Venmo and nearly as many have gone through PayPal.
For those who want to give, check out @IowaHi on Venmo. For those wanting to utilize the program, the email address is [email protected]
“Just the idea that we can help each other,” Sand said. “It’s important to think about in times like this the fact that, we all do better when we all do better. If you’re doing OK, we ought to be grateful for it and we ought to show our gratitude by helping those who aren’t.”