St. Louis Mayor Signs Relief Bill, But Vetoes $33 Million

Aug 16, 2021 at 4:41 pm
Mayor Tishaura Jones is expected to sign the bill later today. - Screengrab from Mayor Tishaura Jones  / Facebook
Mayor Tishaura Jones is expected to sign the bill later today.

Mayor Tishaura Jones signed a bill to distribute $168 million in federal pandemic relief to St. Louisans, and then, through a line-item veto, sliced out $33 million in economic development funding championed by Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed.

The resulting $135 million relief package is the latest version of a plan hammered out during a weeks-long battle between Jones and Reed. After Jones proposed a $80 million plan, Reed and members of the Housing, Urban Development and Zoning Committee hosted rounds of public comment as they kicked around the proposal. That led to an expanded $153 million proposal that cut out a key piece of Jones’ plan — $500 in direct cash payments to 10,000 of the city's most-vulnerable residents. The bill then grew to $168 million after the payments were added back and the full Board of Aldermen included more additions.

Jones announced at a press conference today she would sign the bill but veto the economic development portion because she believes proposed use of that $33 million would violate U.S. Treasury guidelines. She has previously said the city could be forced to repay the money if federal officials determine the money went to unapproved uses. The line-item veto would allow the rest of the funds to be dispersed, including the $500 direct payments and funding for vaccine clinics and assistance for housing.

“We cannot get this wrong,” Jones said in a news conference on Monday morning. “I will not spend federal dollars that our compliance auditors, city counselor and comptroller say do not follow U.S. Treasury guidelines.”

Reed has repeatedly argued that the $33 million plan for economic development does not violate guidelines. In a press release late Monday afternoon, Reed called Jones' veto "one rooted in politics with little regard for the people who will undoubtedly be negatively impacted along the way." Reed said he was disappointed in the decision and that the Board of Aldermen would explore their options to keep the money going to north St. Louis.

The mayor said at the news conference she would be working on a different economic development plan. The $135 million is the first round of the $500 million federal relief funds St. Louis will receive. Jones thanked the board, Congresswoman Cori Bush, Comptroller Darlene Green and the public for their work on the bill in a press release.

"My administration’s top priority is now getting this urgent relief, including $500 direct payments, to thousands of St. Louis families," Jones said in the press release. "But this is just the beginning; we still have hundreds of millions of federal dollars in the bank to transform and revitalize St. Louis, and I will work to make sure those investments benefit our entire city.”

Follow Jenna on Twitter at @writesjenna. Email the author at [email protected]
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