St. Louis federal funding: how leaders plan to spend millions

Leaders say they are working on plans that fit the spirit of the legislation: to recover from COVID-19 and to position the region for growth moving forward

ST. LOUIS — We’re getting a closer look at how hundreds of millions of dollars in federal assistance coming to the St. Louis area will be spent.

In a virtual press conference Monday afternoon, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and County Executive Dr. Sam Page joined Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush to celebrate what they are calling a “transformative” funding package and detail framework thus far. 

While more federal guidance is expected for the clearest picture on how the money can be spent, the St. Louis leaders say they are working on plans that fit the spirit of the legislation: to recover from COVID-19 and to position the region for growth moving forward.

“I’m incredibly proud that out of the $5 billion dollars we secured for the state of Missouri, approximately $700 million is going directly to local governments in the St. Louis region,” said Bush.

St. Louis County expects about $190 million in federal aid as part of the American Rescue Plan. The budget will look similar to the formula in last year’s CARES Act allowance, prioritizing urgent health needs (like vaccine distribution and education), humanitarian issues (such as food insecurity and housing) and economic recovery, especially for businesses forced to shut down or alter operations.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix some things,” said Page. “We must be creative with the solutions we craft.”

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Mayor Krewson will no longer be in office when the first of two payments are delivered to the city, but she said it is important to work on a spending framework so the next administration can hit the ground running. Her key areas of focus for the $500 million the city is expected to receive include housing, public safety upgrades, and urgent needs related to COVID.

“We’re really committed to investing these resources urgently into the community to address the immediate and the continued health needs, humanitarian needs, socioeconomic needs of our residents and of our businesses,” said Krewson. “This is going to be, I think, so transformative for our region, but most of all for our people, which is what this is all about.”

Both local leaders credit Representative Bush for promoting local interests while on the job in Washington. Krewson specifically mentioned the program’s allocation of funding directed based on block grant funding formulas showing socioeconomic need, rather than on population.

“St. Louis has been hurting since long before this pandemic began. And we all know that,” said Bush. “We could not allow the disparities in our community to be further worsened by a relief bill that is not rooted in equity.”

Bush said she has commitments from The White House to move forward with plans to increase the minimum wage, something that was struck from this funding package. She also said that the 117th Congress plans to pass a bill on infrastructure spending, so localities will not need to spend this money on projects like bridge and road repair.

“The same way that I use that bullhorn in the street, I’m using the bullhorn in Congress,” said Bush.

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