The People's Agenda

A Plan for Federal Stimulus Funds

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Introduction

Deep racial inequities, compounded by an unprecedented pandemic, economic recession, and wave of violence have brought St. Louis to a crossroads, one we’ve been at before, and families across our city are on the brink. The over half a billion dollars coming to the city through the American Rescue Plan Act represents a lifeline, and my first priority as mayor will be to expedite delivery of direct relief in the form of mobile and stationary mass vaccination clinics, rental and mortgage assistance, relief for small businesses and their workers, and wraparound support for the unhoused.

I will work to ensure that we seize this once in a generation opportunity to transform an intolerable and unsustainable status quo. We need to make bold investments designed to chart a new course towards justice, equity and democracy. And while I have plenty of proposals—affordable housing, public transit, school renovation, free Wi-Fi, community centers, land remediation, upgrading 911 dispatch, workforce development and more—I’m committed to listening to and incorporating your ideas, and making this the people’s stimulus.

Process is policy, and I believe that bringing in diverse perspectives will help us make wise investments and build a diversified portfolio. At the end of the day, the truth is that half a billion dollars is too much money for the city to allocate alone, and we’ll need help. That’s why I plan to allocate a portion of the funds through a participatory budgeting process. Additionally, I plan to transfer funds to public entities like SLPS, BiState, the Continuum of Care and the Housing Authority, and to capitalize public-private partnerships focused on equitable development and college promise programs.

At the end of the day, the money will flow through the city, and as Mayor, I will immediately plug in to the federal stimulus command center, connect with statewide partners to bring mobile and stationary mass vaccination clinics to St. Louis, work with the Board of Estimate & Apportionment and Board of Aldermen to appropriate stimulus funds, negotiate Memoranda of Understandings (MOUs) to transfer funds to other public entities with the capacity to deliver direct relief, and issue RFPs to partner with community organizations across the city to reach out to vulnerable communities—senior citizens without internet access, single mothers too busy to navigate confusing bureaucratic processes, and countless others—to ensure that they have access to the vaccine, rental assistance, and other resources.

I am committed to full transparency throughout this process, including an open data portal tracking appropriations and expenditures. I will also establish an intergovernmental task force with working groups focused on implementation: negotiating intergovernmental transfers and MOUs, working with city departments to issue RFPs, designing and staffing an office of participatory budgeting, and more. All working group meetings will be open to the public, and the task-force will hold regular hearings, providing all residents with the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments. Finally, I will dedicate stimulus funds to hiring a robust and independent auditing team to work with Comptroller Green.

From north to south, Tishaura has gotten out, listened to our community, and made plans and policy that works for everyone. But, she still needs your input, your ideas, and she needs to hear what YOU, the people of Saint Louis, require from your government.

What is the American Rescue Plan Act?

The American Rescue Plan of 2021 is the Biden-Harris Administration’s federal effort to end this pandemic and help rebuild our economy. The bill is a $1.9T investment in communities across our Nation, and Saint Louis will receive over $500M through this bill, half coming in May of 2021 and the other half coming 12 months later.

Limitations on Spending

While the City has great flexibility in the ways that it spends these incoming funds, the money must be spent for the following purposes:

  • To respond to the public health threat posed by COVID-19 and its “negative economic impacts.”
  • To support and provide premium pay to essential workers in the public and private sectors.
  • To fund any government services, up to the amount of revenue loss due to COVID, calculated relative to real revenues collected in FY2019.
  • To invest in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
  • Transfers: The city may transfer funds to “special-purpose unit[s] of state or local government.”
  • Funds may not be used to offset tax cuts or to pay pension funds.

My Immediate Priorities: Direct Relief

I have always believed that those closest to the problem are closest to the solution. I am pledging to listen to those who have been most adversely affected by this pandemic: to the thousands of tenants with evictions hanging over their heads, protected only by eviction moratoria under constant attack; and to the small businesses hanging on by a thread, supported by communities which treasure them, and trying everything to make it to the other side of the pandemic.

I have heard their dissatisfaction with the city’s ongoing failure to effectively disburse funds, and I have a responsibility to deliver.

Rental, Mortgage & Utility Assistance

  • The city’s decentralized approach is widely recognized as dysfunctional and inefficient. Not only has the city failed to disburse funds in a timely manner, applicants are frequently tossed from one entity to another, creating multiple opportunities for vulnerable people to get lost or disengage.
  • I will streamline the application process for rental and mortgage assistance, centralizing disbursement in a trusted partner, establishing both an online intake portal and multiple in person intake sites across the city, and funding direct service organizations to conduct outreach to marginalized communities.
  • Housing is a human right, and I will work to establish and fund a permanent rental assistance fund.

Small Business Grants

  • I will work with the St. Louis Development Corporation to expand the city’s small business grant program. This program will fund business interruption costs, new operational costs created by COVID, and reopening costs. Eligible costs will include rents, utilities, salaries, benefits, and more.
  • Funds will be allocated according to demonstrated need, as determined by applicant’s income statement and balance sheet, and according to neutral principles which prioritize getting support to the sectors that need it most. All participants will be required to provide an update to determine the effectiveness of the program, and a random subset of participants will be audited to protect against fraud.

Emergency Shelter & Rapid Re-Housing

  • As soon as the eviction moratorium runs out, hundreds, and possibly thousands of city residents will be left without a home. I will instruct the Department of Human Services to work hand in hand with the Continuum of Care to set up hundreds of new shelter beds as soon as possible.
  • I believe that, as a city, we must wrap our arms around our most vulnerable communities, and provide unhoused individuals with basic necessities including food, transportation vouchers, mobile phones, healthcare, including mental health services, and more. These shelters must be hubs for supportive services, including social workers and case managers who can plug families into rapid-rehousing programs.

Targeted Basic Income

  • Between stimulus checks, expansions to the child tax credit and unemployment insurance, thousands of St. Louisans are already receiving a form of basic income. I will dedicate funds to supplement these programs, supporting those who fall through the cracks, including refugees and undocumented residents, expanding monthly allocations to those with demonstrated need, and extending the support through 2024 to the extent funds allow.

Wi-Fi in Public Spaces

  • This pandemic exposed many of the inequities that we’ve always known were there. The digital divide that exists within our City is stark, and as Mayor, I will address this head-on.
  • We will work to bridge the divide by installing free, public Wi-Fi in city parks, bus stations, traffic lights, and on public property.

Preparing our City for Long-Term Growth

As Mayor, one of my top priorities will be working to ensure the long-term health and growth of our City. Schools are closing and neighborhoods are being hollowed out because we have failed to plan for the futures of our most vulnerable neighborhoods.

As Mayor, I will develop strategies that prepare our children for the increasingly competitive workforce, stabilize neighborhoods and attract young families to grow our population, and create robust and thriving communities.

We’ll Need Your Help and Your Insight

Recovering from this pandemic will require your input as well. I am committed to creating a plan for the future of Saint Louis that uses a participatory budgeting process for a significant portion of the funds we are going to receive. I believe that empowering and engaging citizens in the democratic process improves the quality of public investments, is a direct response to the public’s lack of trust in government, and contributes to a sense of community in the City. You’ll be able to engage in the process in many different ways: town hall meetings, surveys, and public comment.

Submit your input

Conclusion

As we rebuild, we must also bear in mind that in our globalized world, another health crisis is inevitable. With my background in public health and a strong partnership with a licensed physician in County Executive Dr. Sam Page, I stand ready to prepare our region for a healthier future.

These proposals are not meant to be comprehensive; they are a starting point, and I welcome your feedback and insight. But though I am committed to a robust community engagement process, I am also committed to moving quickly. I am ready to distribute these funds quickly, equitably, and with a focus on those struggling the most.

We stand at a historic moment which demands renewed investment in communities who have been left out and left behind, who have been knocked down but who have refused to be knocked out, and those for whom the pandemic has hit the hardest.

I am ready to serve, ready to lead, and ready to unify our City on day one. We do not have time for leadership to learn on the job or leadership that hasn’t shown up in our communities.

The money that we have incoming from the federal government is an incredible opportunity for our City to hit reset and grow into a more equitable home for the people who live here.

I am up to the challenge of disbursing these funds with an eye towards equity, and I come equipped with the executive experience to move quickly. Delivering relief to those who need it most is a matter of saving lives and protecting people’s families and homes.

I’m ready to get to work and deliver results. It’s what the people of Saint Louis deserve.

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