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St. Louis County Council Approves Up To $1 Million To Help Ferguson Residents

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council authorized up to $1 million to be spent to help Ferguson residents pay for expenses incurred during nearly two weeks of unrest.  

Without opposition, the council authorized the county to spend up to $1 million to help Ferguson residents who felt the impact of riots and looting. For more than two weeks, the city was under almost constant turmoil after Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown earlier this month.

Mike Jones, an adviser to St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, said the United Way would administer the money because they have infrastructure to get the money to people quickly.

Jones said members of Dooley’s administration had heard stories of people who needed assistance for various reasons. For example, some of the money will go toward paying energy bills to assist people who couldn't go to work because of the turmoil and, as a result, didn't receive their regular pay. Jones said the county will determine what the need is and how much is needed, and the United Way will get the money to the individuals who need it.

“There are as many stories as there are people. So everybody’s been affected by what has gone on over the last two weeks in all sorts of ways,” Jones said. “What we want to do was just be in a position to be flexible enough to figure out what needed to be done, who it needed to be done for and not get bureaucratic and then come back here with a proposal.”

There was some discussion during Tuesday’s meeting about whether the bill should be amended to provide assistance for businesses. But Council Chairwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City, indicated that the economic development agency was working on a separate proposal that aims to help companies hurt by the unrest.

“And I think on the [list of businesses asking for aid], there was like at least 100 businesses,” Erby said. “We visited one business for example that had over $50,000 in damages. So, if you’ve got $100-plus, that diminishes and maybe uses up all the money we have dedicated for the residents.”

In the meantime, Dooley told reporters that he has been talking with federal officials about the county getting reimbursed for expenses from the unrest — especially to pay for overtime for the St. Louis County Police Department. He said it’s been estimated that it cost around $90,000 to $100,000 per day in police overtime “during the crisis.”

“We’re looking at anywhere we can possibly get this money back,” Dooley said.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.