ST. LOUIS — The three priorities for distributing up to $64 million in federal COVID-19 relief money in St. Louis will be to expand testing capacity, support struggling small businesses and combat homelessness, Mayor Lyda Krewson said Friday.
Krewson said in a news briefing that the city’s funding plan, which includes $35 million already announced this month, divides the relief package among the city health department, the housing department and city development agencies to support small businesses hurt by the pandemic.
All spending requires approval by the city’s Board of Aldermen and Board of Estimate and Apportionment. Officials plan to present the proposed spending package to aldermen next week.
“These historic investments are going to be made to address not just the devastating public health impact of this virus but also the astronomical economic and humanitarian fallout that’s affecting our fellow St. Louisans,” Krewson said.
The spending package includes about $7 million proposed for the city health department, including approximately $2.5 million for about 25 contact tracing jobs and another $1.5 million toward early childhood education. Some money would provide housing for low-income AIDS patients and to move the homeless from shelters to more permanent living.
Krewson’s spokesman, Jacob Long, said in an email that “it’s been demonstrated that unhoused individuals and those living with HIV/AIDS are considered high-risk, vulnerable populations for communicable diseases, such as COVID-19.”
Another $16 million would be split among the city’s development agencies for housing and to help small businesses. Krewson said she is prioritizing businesses with fewer than 25 employees. More money is earmarked for protective equipment and training at early childhood education centers.
About $20 million would be earmarked for the city housing department to combat homelessness, including at least $5.6 million toward emergency shelters, $5.4 million for rental and mortgage assistance and another $3 million for utility assistance.
Krewson said the city still is working to get $17 million more from the state that she believes Missouri officials should have allocated during a distribution of federal coronavirus aid recently. Krewson complained that the city was shortchanged in the $2.08 billion the state received in federal money.
In other virus-related developments:
• St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Friday that he expected most businesses and venues in the county to be allowed to open by mid-June, with social distancing guidelines. His comments came a day after Gov. Mike Parson announced a two-week extension of the state’s reopening phase. Both leaders, appearing together Friday at a news conference, said they intended to bring the region in line with the state.
Bars, pools, gyms, playgrounds and sporting venues remain closed in St. Louis County under Page’s May 18 order, and could be the next wave of openings. However, Page said the county would still have to “see how it goes” over the next couple of weeks.
Missouri has reported at least 12,795 total coronavirus cases and 738 deaths.
• Illinois officials announced 1,622 new cases and 86 more deaths, bringing overall cases there to 117,455 and the death toll to 5,270.
The state’s stay-at-home order that began March 21 ended Friday as the state moved into a new phase that allows many businesses to reopen. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s latest executive order eases restrictions on religious services and on various businesses but keeps a 10-person limit on public gatherings. The governor said his daily news briefings will shift to an as-needed basis.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the state’s public health director, urged people to communicate with contact tracers to gain a better understanding of one’s potential exposure to the virus. She warned of potential scams and said contact tracers wouldn’t seek personal or financial information.
“There is no question contact tracing plays a vital role in stopping the spread of COVID-19,” she said.
• St. Louis city Treasurer Tishaura Jones said Friday that late fees on unpaid parking tickets are waived as long as overdue tickets are paid by Aug. 31. Jones’ announcement also reminded drivers that the city’s parking enforcement will resume Monday. The city suspended enforcement and fee collections March 16 because of the pandemic.
“I want to help St. Louisans throughout the region to get out of debt,” Jones said.
• St. Charles County reopened most of its public buildings Friday including its health department, county administration building and police department. The county’s jail remains closed to the public. St. Peters announced it was opening City Hall’s west wing on Monday after being closed since March 25.
At least 102,300 people with the virus have died in the United States, according to a New York Times COVID-19 database. More than 1.7 million people across the country have tested positive.
Sarah Teague and Jeremy Kohler of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.