Jones sees ‘major break with the past’ in plans for new pandemic aid

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said his plan for a first injection of federal pandemic relief money would help the city right historic wrongs.

“I hear a lot of people talking about getting back to normal. But do we really want to get back to normal? Jones said Tuesday when outlining his plans for the first $ 80 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds. “For most Saint-Louis, normal never worked. The direct relief program that I am presenting today is a major break with the past. “

Jones wants to spend more than 60%, or $ 58 million, of funds on economic aid, including rental, mortgage and utility assistance, as well as direct cash payments. Details on who would receive these payments were not immediately provided. This $ 58 million includes money for workforce development and broadband expansion, as well as funding for emergency homeless shelters and “intentional settlements.”

There is $ 1 million for mobile immunization clinics, $ 500,000 for canvassing, and an additional $ 500,000 for education and vaccine marketing. Jones also wants to spend $ 5 million on violence intervention programs like Cure Violence and employment and leisure opportunities for young people.

“Poverty, unstable housing, lack of access to mental health services, scarce jobs and recreational opportunities for young people, disinvestment and the like – these are the real root causes of the crime plaguing the city. our city, ”Jones said. “This plan uses all the tools available in our toolkit to address it.”

The city is expected to receive a total of $ 500 million from ARPA, which is to be spent by the end of 2024. Many of the programs Jones wants to implement would require ongoing revenue to operate, but she didn’t worry. not to find resources.

“What we hope is that this initial investment will work so well that people will come back to the city, increase our tax revenues and therefore we can continue to fund these programs,” she said.

The Estimation and Allocation Council, as well as the Council of Aldermen, must approve any expenditure. Jones said she had good conversations with lawmakers and other elected officials in the city.

A spokesperson for Darlene Green said that in general the comptroller supported Jones’ priorities for spending the first round of ARPA funding.

A spokeswoman for the chairman of the council of aldermen, Lewis Reed, said there was an overlap between his priorities and those of the mayor, but the rest of the council and the public would also have an opportunity to speak. 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 rent, mortgage and utility aid, Jones said. The federal moratorium on evictions is due to expire on June 30. This is also the deadline set by the state of Missouri to allocate funds from the CARES Act, although the city may continue to spend the money it had already allocated beyond that date.

“The very last thing any of us wants is for there to be another gap in service for the citizens of the city of St. Louis. And certainly with that first installment of resources at our disposal, there shouldn’t be any, ”said Sandra Moore, co-chair of the Jones stimulus advisory board. “It is our deep hope and our deep prayer that the council of aldermen use this opportunity as the mayor has indicated to take the citizens’ priorities and work with her to cross the finish line.”

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

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