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Jones Sees ‘Major Break From The Past’ In Plans For New Pandemic Aid

Mayor Tishaura Jones at a press conference on June 15, 2021.
Bill Greenblatt
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones discusses her plans for the first $80 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds Tuesday at City Hall.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones says her plan for an initial infusion of federal pandemic relief money will help the city right historical wrongs.

“I hear many people talking about returning to normal. But do we really want to get back to normal?” Jones said Tuesday as she outlined her plans for the first $80 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds. “For most St. Louisans, normal never worked. The direct relief package I am outlining today is a major break from the past.”

Jones wants to direct 73%, or $58 million, of the funds to economic relief, including rental, mortgage and utility assistance, as well as direct cash payments. Details about who would receive those payments were not immediately provided. Included in that $58 million is money for workforce development and broadband expansion, as well as funding for emergency homeless shelters and “intentional encampments.”

There is $1 million for mobile vaccine clinics, $500,000 for canvassing and another $500,000 for vaccine education and marketing. Jones also wants to spend $5 million on violence intervention programs like Cure Violence, and youth employment and recreation opportunities.

“Poverty, housing instability, lack of access to mental health services, scarce jobs and recreational opportunities for youth, disinvestment and the like - these are the real root causes of crime plaguing our city,” Jones said. “This plan uses every tool available in our toolbox to address them.”

The city is set to receive a total of $500 million from the ARPA, which must be spent by the end of 2024. Many of the programs Jones wants to implement would require ongoing revenue to function, but she wasn’t concerned about finding resources.

“What we hope will happen is that this initial investment will work so well that people will come back to the city, increase our tax revenue, and therefore we’ll be able to keep funding these programs,” she said.

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment, as well as the Board of Aldermen, will have to approve any spending. Jones said she had had good conversations with lawmakers and other citywide elected officials.

A spokesman for Darlene Green said, in general, the comptroller supports Jones’ priorities for spending the first round of ARPA funding.

A spokeswoman for Board of Aldermen president Lewis Reed said there was overlap between his priorities and the mayor’s, but the rest of the board and the public would have a chance to weigh in as well. The Housing, Urban Development and Zoning committee will begin hearings on the legislation next week.

The most urgent piece of the puzzle is the $15 million for rental, mortgage and utility assistance, Jones said. The federal eviction moratorium is set to expire June 30. That is also the deadline the state of Missouri set to allocate CARES Act funds, although the city can continue to spend money it had already allocated beyond that date.

“The very last thing that any of us want is for there to be any further gap in the services for the citizens of the city of St. Louis. And certainly with this first tranche of resources available to us, there should not be,” said Sandra Moore, the co-chair of Jones’ stimulus advisory board. “It is our deep hope and our deep prayer that the Board of Aldermen will use this opportunity as the mayor has indicated to take the citizen-driven priorities and work with her to get it across the finish line.”

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.