St. Louis mayor says legal issues could tie up federal rescue plan funding bill locally

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ST. LOUIS–Mayor Tishaura Jones said Wednesday she is happy that the St. Louis Board of Aldermen put $5 million back into a bill passed Tuesday that will provide $500 in direct financial relief to city residents as part of a broader plan to spend $163 million in federal American Rescue Act funding. But she cautioned that the overall bill still has hurdles to overcome.

The plan has $53 million in funding for affordable housing development and funding for specific corridors of North St. Louis.

The city counselor’s office, citing guidance from the U.S. Treasury, has said that general economic development funding can’t be spent using Rescue Act funding unless it directly addresses a negative economic impact stemming from COVID-19.

Money spent outside the bounds of those guidelines could potentially be taken back by the federal government.

Mary Goodman, a spokesperson for Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed, disagreed, saying that the funds could be interpreted as revenue replacement if spent correctly.

“Killing the bill over one legal opinion would be a grave mistake,” she said.

Jones said alternatives, like direct financial assistance, are being explored. She would not answer directly when asked if she will support the bill at the Board of Estimation and Apportionment, where the bill heads next, before final passage by the Board of Aldermen.

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