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Page Proposes Special Fund For St. Louis County's $175 Million In Federal Coronavirus Relief

Medical workers collect a sample from a patient at Mercy Health's drive-through novel coronavirus test collection site in Chesterfield on Monday afternoon, March 16, 2020.
File photo |Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Medical workers collect a sample from a patient at Mercy Health's drive-thru coronavirus test-collection site in Chesterfield on March 16.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page wants to create a new fund that will be a landing place of sorts for federal money aimed at fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

The Democratic official also wants to move $7 million from the county health fund to efforts to fight COVID-19, money that he says will likely be reimbursed once the county receives its share of what’s widely known as the federal CARES Act.

Pageon Tuesday asked the council to create the county fund for the CARES Act proceeds, which are estimated to be about $175 million. He said in a letter to the council that “spending of these federal funds will be invested in addressing public health, humanitarian, and economic crises facing the county as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Additionally, there should be a special emphasis placed on spending funds in a manner that addresses the needs of vulnerable and underserved populations, including the African American community and people with chronic medical problems, who are disproportionately impacted by infections and loss of life due to COVID-19,” Page wrote.

Additionally, Page asked the council to move $7.05 million from the county health fund for coronavirus mitigation efforts. He said in a letter that it’s likely that the county will get reimbursed from the CARES Act for the items detailed in the request but added that the “services and actions these funds will support are too critical to wait for the federal funds to be distributed.” 

Among other things, Page wants to spend $2.5 million on a population health study to guide the county’s coronavirus response. He also wants to spend $250,000 on laboratory equipment for antibody testing, $150,000 on medical supplies and $600,000 for a contract for laboratory testing results.

Both of these measures were introduced at Tuesday’s county council meeting. The three Republican members of the seven-member council wanted to hold what’s known as a Committee of the Whole, a hearing where council members take testimony on legislation before it goes to a vote.

“I think it’s prudent that we at least get some better information than what was presented 15 minutes before the meeting,” said Councilman Mark Harder, R-Ballwin. 

Council Chairwoman Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood, declined the request to hold a committee hearing, adding that a public health emergency necessitated quick action from county government.

“We need to move swiftly,” Clancy said. “There is ample opportunity to get the information they need in order to make an informed decision about this. And I encourage everyone to do so.”

The council could vote on the legislation to create the county coronavirus fund and fill the health funding request at next week’s meeting.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

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