By TIM ROWDEN
The Greater St. Louis Labor Council, representing 100 St. Louis-area unions and more than 80,000 members, has announced its support for St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones’ proposal to invest $80 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) direct relief funds to expand vaccination efforts and provide urgent needed economic support to families.
“Mayor Jones’ proposal takes into account the support working people need as our economy begins to recover from the COVID-19 crisis,” said Greater St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White. “Organized labor hopes the Board of Aldermen moves quickly to get much-needed relief to the working families of St. Louis.”
Jones outlined her proposal to allocate the first $80 million in immediate federal direct relief funding from the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in a meeting with the Labor Council’s Executive Board. With unanimous approval from the Executive Board, Labor Council delegates voted to endorse the plan on June 15.
“This $80 million direct relief plan was informed by the needs and input of working people from neighborhoods across our city,” Jones said. “I am proud to have the support of the Labor Movement as we use these initial funds to protect working families and make our communities safer.”
Jones described the initial infusion of funds as a critical first step toward an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, delivering urgent, direct relief to help St. Louis families support themselves and stabilize neighborhoods across the city.
The administration is urging the Board of Aldermen to move quickly to approve the plan to ensure continuity of COVID-related services. CARES Act funding for rental assistance expires on July 1.
Jones’ plan deals with the spending of the first $80 million of $517 million the city is set to receive from Washington under the ARPA. Highlights of the Mayor’s plan include:
- $6.75 million in public health infrastructure spending to get people vaccinated with mobile vaccine clinics and community canvasses to meet St. Louisans in their neighborhoods and homes.
- $58 million in direct, urgent economic relief, including housing and utility assistance, support for the unhoused, immediate cash assistance, and public benefits navigators to help residents connect with these services.
- $11.5 million to improve public safety through increased funding for violence intervention programs and youth programming and jobs to keep youth engaged and safe
“Our city’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis must be equitable across zip codes and racial lines,” Jones said. “From much-needed housing assistance to violence prevention programs, our first allocation of $80 million will help stabilize neighborhoods, improve public safety and build a strong foundation to invest more federal rescue funds down the road. The people of St. Louis are relying on us to deliver this aid quickly to boost lifesaving vaccination efforts and keep families in their homes ahead of a potential eviction crisis.”
MORE SPENDING ON THE HORIZON
Jones said her administration developed a plan for investing the ARPA funds after gathering input from about 2,500 people, including citizens and a 26-member stimulus advisory board, established to help organize and oversee appropriate spending of the funds.
In her remarks to the Executive Board, Jones recognized the importance of hiring qualified union construction contractors for the work targeted in her priorities, including rehabbing and building of new facilities and, for the first time, ensuring that those who will ultimately work in the facilities earn a living wage.
To help get service workers back on the job, the mayor said several million will be set aside to provide childcare, a major issue for two-parent working families.
She said a joint effort is also under consideration by the city, St. Louis County and Madison County to expand Metro rail service.
In addition, Jones wants to invest $58 million for workforce development and broadband expansion, and provide funding for emergency homeless shelters and “intentional encampments.”
She also wants to spend $5 million on violence intervention programs like Cure Violence, and youth employment and recreation opportunities.
“Poverty, housing instability, lack of access to mental health services, scarce jobs and recreational opportunities for youth, disinvestment and the like – these are the real root causes of crime plaguing our city,” Jones said. “This plan uses every tool available in our toolbox to address them.”