January 31, 2023
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Only St. Louis Public School families that are less than 170 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible for monthly cash assistance.

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A $500 monthly payment bill for approximately 440 St. Louis families received final approval from the St. Louis Council of Elders today. The bill, backed by Mayor Tishaura Jones, is now heading to her desk for final approval.

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According to the bill’s plan, $5 million of the pandemic funds will be distributed to poor families over 18 months.

More than 30 US cities have launched similar guaranteed basic income programs, including Chicago and Atlanta. Funds are usually earmarked for specific populations, such as young mothers or those recently incarcerated. The St. Louis program will target families with children in St. Louis public schools who are less than 170 percent of the federal poverty level.

Most families in St. Louis public schools live in precarious housing conditions, Mayor’s chief of staff Jared Boyd explained at a committee meeting last week. Schools spend a lot of resources to stabilize these families, Boyd said. Offering financial assistance would ease the burden on the school and provide stability to families who are struggling to keep their affairs in order.

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“It’s much easier to focus on getting your child to see the doctor or getting a job when you don’t have to think about immediate needs, where your next meal will come from, or how you can prevent utility bills. shutdown or how you get to work if your car is down,” Boyd said.

During the debate on this bill, the mayor’s office argued that the direct cash assistance program the city passed last year was successful, arguing that giving recipients a $500 lump sum increased their employability, with most recipients investing in groceries. utilities and gas.

Some aldermen were not convinced. Ward 3 Alderman Brandon Bosley believes the bill should specify how families can spend funds. At today’s Board of Aldermen meeting, Alderman Joe Vaccaro said he disagreed that the bill would only benefit a few hundred needy families when there are several thousand in St. Louis.

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Ward 19 Alderman Marlene Davis questioned the effectiveness of giving families $500 when several community organizations and support systems have already provided services to families in need.

“You’re putting a band-aid on something that doesn’t even need a band-aid,” Davis said.

But the guaranteed basic income is only a small part of the bill. Overall, the bill proposes $52.2 million in American Rescue Plan funds for various community investments.

The largest allocation, $19.86 million, will go to the Department of Human Services to provide housing stabilization, senior services and emergency rental assistance, and a guaranteed basic income offer.

Other allocations include $13 million for federal medical centers to develop and expand. The St. Louis Training and Employment Agency will receive $6 million to create year-round jobs for youth.

For the most part, aldermen who opposed the guaranteed basic income portion of the bill ended up voting in favor of the bill anyway.

The bill received 21 votes in favor and one against. Alderman Lisa Middlebrook voted in favor while Alderman James Lappe abstained.

“Today, we all excelled together,” Alderwoman Shamim Clarke Hubbard, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement. “I am proud to have played a role in passing a bill that will directly impact working families in our beloved city of St. Louis.”

The bill does not set a time limit for St. Louis residents to apply for assistance under the Guaranteed Basic Income Program. The mayor’s office has yet to announce a date.

“We will learn from other pilot direct payment programs across the country and take the time to make sure any application process is fair and impartial,” said spokesman Nick Desideri.

This story has been updated to include comments from Warden Shamim Clark Hubbard and City Hall.

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