ST. LOUIS- A weeks-long impasse that had stood in the way of final passage of a $163 million St. Louis Board of Aldermen bill in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding appears to have been resolved, paving the way for thousands of city residents to receive $500 in direct payments.
Aldermen gave first approval to the bill July 13, but Mayor Tishaura Jones and Comptroller Darlene Green didn’t support it at the Board of Estimate and Apportionment due to concerns that more than $30 million identified for economic development in North St. Louis would run afoul of U.S. Treasury department guidelines, setting the city up to potentially need to repay the federal government out of its general fund.
Lewis Reed, President of the Board of Aldermen disagreed, and hired an attorney to offer up a legal opinion that the economic development proposal was legal.
Friday, during an E&A meeting, Jones and Greene voted to back the bill, without changes.
“Though I hope that the President might take a responsible route and amend his bill in order to ensure that we don’t lose federal funds, the truth is St. Louis residents cannot wait,” Jones said, adding that her move to support the bill was “in the best interests of the city.”
A federal lobbyist for the city warned members Friday that St. Louis risks having to pay the money back, as well as being the target of a federal audit if the bill remains intact. He added that with Congress expected to pass a massive infrastructure package, there would be other ways to fund other projects.
Reed says other cities, including Detroit, have taken a similar approach in identifying corridors for economic development under the same federal guidelines and said that the current board bill only authorizes the spending, leaving it to city departments and consultants to do the work of making sure funds are spent according to federal rules.
“I know what happens after we pass this, and I have all the confidence in the world in the mayor’s office and her administration to assure that when they enter into agreements with the consultants that those consultants will assure just like in the previous administration that the process for approval, the process for review, and that all the checks and balances and reporting is in place,” Reed said. “An appropriations bill does not do that.”
It is unclear when the bill will go back before the Board of Aldermen for final approval