Council allots majority of remaining pandemic aid

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Photo by Erin Achenbach

Seventh District Councilman Mark Harder and 3rd District Councilman Tim Fitch at a May 2019 meeting.

By Erin Achenbach, News Editor

The St. Louis County Council approved several pieces of legislation last week to spend down remaining federal pandemic aid money.

The council approved bills allocating nearly all of the county’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds, totaling close to $66 million. Before the Oct. 25 meeting, the county had appropriated about $127 million of the $193 million it received in ARPA money.

Included in the most recent round of approvals is $18.5 million for projects in South County. Last November, 6th District Councilman Ernie Trakas had proposed a $62.5 million “South County Strong Plan” using the ARPA money to address economic assistance for small businesses, infrastructure, public works and physical and mental health services in the 6th District. At that time, Trakas said the intent of his proposal was to “initiate a discussion and dialogue amongst and between council members” on the best way to appropriate the ARPA money.

“We understand that these were difficult decisions and that not all requests will be funded, however that does not take away from the value of those projects,” 4th District Councilwoman Shalonda Webb said before the final passage of the ARPA bills. “I just want everyone to understand that we only have a certain amount of money … and we did the best that we could with the information that we had.”

Webb headed a three-person working group that included 3rd District Councilman Tim Fitch and 5th District Councilwoman Lisa Clancy and were tasked with prioritizing what projects to spend the remaining aid money on.

In addition to the money set aside for South County, other projects approved by the council include $5.6 million to address food insecurity in the 1st and 4th Districts, $11 million to help tear down derelict buildings in unincorporated areas of the county and nearly $24 million for police-related projects, including a new precinct building in the central part of the county.

Another $5.6 million was approved for a nonprofit group that boosts pay and retention for early childhood education workers.

With the passage of the bills last week, nearly all of the county’s allotted ARPA funds have been allocated to various projects, with roughly $600,000 remaining.