Douglas County Commission to consider policy to pay people with lived experience

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Douglas County commissioners on Wednesday will consider a new policy that would allow the county to pay people who have lived experience for their input on community issues and initiatives.

County staff members want to seek input from people who are experiencing homelessness, in particular, and the new policy is in hopes of addressing barriers that prevent people from participating in listening sessions and work group meetings.

“Lived experience is considered individuals who offer specific or unique perspectives, knowledge, and skills, from their life experience can make important contributions to local government policies and services,” the draft policy states. “These individuals fill an important role in offering diverse perspectives and experiences, whose participation can be facilitated and improved with compensation.

“Community members bring the wisdom of lived experience to boards, committees, including but not limited to issues related to safety, food systems, criminal justice, mental health, entrepreneurship, or homelessness,” the draft policy continues.

Short-term engagement would be paid at $25 per meeting; serving on a board would be paid at $50 per meeting, according to the draft policy. Nonmonetary compensation — such as food, transportation vouchers or parking vouchers — would also be allowed, but it all must be tracked.

“Compensation should be offered to lessen the cost burden for those who experience barriers to participation and to value community for their wisdom, lived and professional experiences,” the policy states.

Examples of some groups for which participants could be eligible for compensation would include the Housing and Homeless Stakeholder Group, Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Douglas County Food Policy Council, and Entrepreneurship Community – E3 Cities. The CJCC includes a seat at the table for people with lived experience in the criminal legal system, but the seat has often remained vacant.

The draft policy would also allow the county administrator’s office to keep a locked cash box to provide payments in cash.

Anyone who receives more than $599 in a calendar year from the county would receive a 1099 form and must report the income on their taxes. The draft lists the maximum compensation per fiscal year as $600.

Here’s the full draft policy and the community compensation voucher form and agreement from the agenda:


Commissioners will also consider approving the county’s share of tax breaks for a developer seeking to build affordable housing for people ages 55 and up in downtown Lawrence. Read more about that project at this link; see the agenda item at this link.

Commissioners will meet at 4 p.m. for a work session and at 5:30 p.m. for their regular business meeting Wednesday, Sept. 13 at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. See the full meeting agenda at this link.

Commissioners accept written public comment emailed to no later than 24 hours ahead of the meeting start time. Members of the public may also give comments during the meeting in person or via Zoom; join the Zoom meeting via the link on this page.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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