CoronavirusNewsPoliticsThe NorthSider

Jones’ stimulus plan will face scrutiny from Board of Aldermen

CITY HALL – Mayor Tishaura Jones’ plan to spend $80 million in federal relief funds may encounter different ideas when the Board of Aldermen takes a look at it.

In a news conference at City Hall on Tuesday, the mayor laid out details of her plans to spend an allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act.  

Her plan calls for spending $58 million out of an $80 million federal allocation for COVID-19 relief on programs that provide direct, urgent economic help.

She also said she’d like to see another $6.75 million used to promote vaccination through community canvasses, mobile vaccination and other programs. Also, she’d like to see $11.5 million used for public safety, through violence intervention and efforts to keep young people busy and safe. She said the Board of Aldermen had to finish its work and get it to her desk for signing by July 1.

Not so, said Mary Goodman, the legislative director for Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed. 

There isn’t enough time for the Board of Aldermen to pass the bill by July 1, Goodman said. She said the goal is to pass the bill by the time the board breaks for the summer in mid-July. She also said the money won’t disappear if the bill isn’t passed by July 1.

“Her proposal will definitely be taken into consideration,” Goodman said.  But there is a process, she said, and others can offer ideas. The Board of Aldermen’s Housing, Urban Development and Zoning Committee will hold a hearing on it next week. 

During Tuesday’s news conference, Jones said her training as a state legislator tells her that she has to talk to everybody and count the votes. She will continue reaching out to aldermen to get their support, she said. She also said she’s already been in contact with other members of the city’s main financing board, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment. That body consists of the mayor, the comptroller and the aldermanic president. 

“Of the aldermen I have spoken to, the conversations have gone well,” Jones said. “And I’ve also started to ask them what are their priorities for the next round of funding that we’ll have to determine, because I want to make sure that they are a part of the process.”

The most important concern in the funding is getting shots in arms, Jones said. Right now, the vaccination rate in the city is only 37, she said. 

“Since May, 80 percent of new COVID cases in St. Louis have been in predominantly black communities. We must move quickly to protect everyone in our city and prevent more people from getting sick,” Jones said. 

Direct relief helps neighborhoods to get back on their feet, the mayor said. “We’ve seen an overwhelming and urgent people as our communities still grapple with the economic fallout of the pandemic,” she said. 

A Stimulus Advisory Board helped provide ideas for the package, Jones said. More than 2,500 people offered comments.  

“After a transparent and extensive process, we submitted our recommendations to Mayor Jones,” said Sandy Moore, co-chair of the mayor’s Stimulus Advisory Board. “I’m proud of the transparent, data driven and community driven process we ran.”

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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